Controversial convert

The latest episode in Pope Benedict’s tumultuous relationship with the Muslim world is controversy over the conversion to Catholicism of Egyptian-born journalist Magdi Allam, an outspoken critic of his former faith whom Benedict personally baptized at the Vatican on the day before Easter. Among those criticizing the high-profile baptismal ceremony was one of the 138 Muslim scholars and clerics who last year signed an open letter seeking better relations with the Christian world. In response to that letter, Benedict invited a group of signatories to meet with him at the Vatican, a meeting for which preparations are now in the works.

He’s Gone Again

Rev. Wright was set give his first public sermon since relinquishing his post this evening, but the event was called off for “security concerns” and the potential for a media circus.

Hillary at the Plate

OK, gang. Hillary Clinton is now prepared to call Barack Obama to account for what his pastor says. As in the following quotes from today’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:”He would not have been my pastor,” Clinton said. “You don’t choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend…”You know, I spoke out against Don Imus (who was fired from his radio and television shows after making racially insensitive remarks), saying that hate speech was unacceptable in any setting, and I believe that,” Clinton said. “I just think you have to speak out against that.

He’s Back… …

Rev. Wright will be delivering three sermons starting with the first tonight in Florida. The church where Wright is speaking is banning recording devices, but stay tuned for a bootleg recording.

Rebellious Religion Redux

Politico’s Andrew Glass points out in a worthwhile read that Rev. Wright is certainly not the first or most controversial pastor in American history. Two figures mirror Wright’s controversy and fall from grace. They are Rev. Samuel Buchard made famous for his “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion” line that hurt Republicans in the 1880’s and Charles Coughlin who preached antisemitism via the YouTube of the day, the radio.

The Precious

It’s probably not worth overburdening the analogy, but since James Carville has insisted that he said what he meant, and meant what he said, I’ll indulge myself. Whether or not we are (as Reid suggests) to understand Hillary Clinton–really, the Clintons a deux, since Bill Richardson is Bill’s disciple–as Jesus, the idea is that Richardson’s endorsement of Barack Obama puts her on the path to crucifixion. The Clintons as victims–not exactly a new trope. Judas, of course, undertook his betrayal in exchange for money, and there’s no doubt that Richardson himself heard the analogy that way, denying that Obama has offered him any quid pro quo for his endorsement. Make Obama Pontius Pilate in the scenario.

Pope marks Easter with nod to Muslims, China

c. 2008 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Easter is the most sacred feast in the Christian calendar, when believers of all denominations celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. But for Pope Benedict XVI, this year’s Easter celebrations were fraught with significance for the Catholic Church’s relations with the non-Christian world _ particularly Islam and China. In his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” message on Sunday (March 23), addressed “to the city (of Rome) and the world,” Benedict appealed for peace in a half dozen countries or regions of Africa and the Middle East, most of them lands with Muslim majorities and beleaguered Christian minorities, including Darfur and Iraq. The references echoed Benedict’s plea from one week earlier, at the start of Holy Week, when he demanded an end to the “slaughters,” “violence” and “hatred” in Iraq.

Pope marks Easter with nod to Muslims, China

c. 2008 Religion News Service Judge rules against woman seminary professor (RNS) A federal judge in Texas has ruled against a former professor at a prominent Southern Baptist seminary who said she was dismissed because of her gender. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was within its rights when it decided not to renew the contract of Sheri Klouda in 2006, said U.S. District Judge John McBryde of Fort Worth, Texas. Klouda, hired as a professor of biblical languages in 2002, had sued for fraud and breach of contract, arguing that she had an oral agreement with the seminary to keep her on. Seminary president Paige Patterson said “my response is simply one of gratitude to God and to a host of people.” Klouda’s case highlights the tension over the role of women in the largely conservative Southern Baptist Convention.

Pope marks Easter with nod to Muslims, China

c. 2008 Religion News Service (UNDATED) This is the time of year when the Catholic Church enjoys the greatest growth spurt of the entire year _ an estimated 150,000 adult converts who were baptized or confirmed into the church on Easter. A recent survey shows 44 percent of Americans now profess a religious affiliation that’s different from the one they were born into. But not everyone who flirts with change actually makes the leap, as a bumper crop of recent spiritual memoirs shows. Some who start the journey end up in new and unexpected places, while others end up exactly where they started, thankful for lessons learned.

Another Award for the Dalai Lama’s Mantel …

The Dalai Lama may be at odds with the Chinese troops currently stationed in his homeland, but the good folks at Hofstra University think he deserves the inaugural $50,000 prize for fostering interfaith harmony. Hofstra gave the exiled leader of Tibetan Buddhism the Guru Nanak Prize on Monday, and His Holiness will accept it in November in India. More on the award: The prize, to be awarded every other year, was established in 2006 through an endowment from the family of Ishar Singh Bindra to be given by Hofstra University to individuals or organizations that have worked to facilitate the religious dialogue that is indispensable to reducing religious conflict. The prize was named for the founder of the Sikh religion and was meant to encourage understanding of various religions and to build bridges between faith communities. Guru Nanak believed that all humans were born equal regardless of skin color, ethnicity, nationality and gender.

Easter at the Lincoln Memorial

In case you (like most of us) were still sleeping when the sun crept over the U.S. Capitol on Easter morning, Lee Love has some smart pics of the Easter Sunrise Service at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington …

Martin Marty’s Picks for Mt. Preachmore

Martin Marty, the unparalleled scholar of American religious history at the University of Chicago, lists his top preacher picks to replace Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt on Mt. Rushmore: Walter Rauschenbush, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Reinhold Niebuhr, Martin Luther King, Jr., and William Sloane Coffin. They all preached to many classes of people, including those powerful enough to get their names in print. Some hearers were alienated and walked away to receive sweeter messages (as some blacks now do, too, with the non-biblical “Prosperity Gospel”). Some did not.

Conan the Buddhist dog

Those who believe in reincarnation may take a special look at a Zen Buddhist temple in southern Japan, where a young Chihuahua named Conan prays with the monks. The 18-month-old black-and-white pup joins in the daily prayers at the temple, sitting up on his hind legs and putting his front paws together before the altar. It took him only a few days to learn the motions, and now he is the talk of the town. “Word has spread, and we are getting a lot more tourists,” a Zen priest said Monday. Conan generally goes through his prayer routine at the temple without prompting before his morning and evening meals.

Dems by Religion

A new Gallup poll breaks down the Democratic primary electorate by religion. Gallup properly ledes its story with the finding that Jewish Democrats favor Clinton by a small amount (48 percent to 43 percent) that is within the margin of error. Exit polls in states with a sufficiently large Jewish population to provide meaningful results have tended to show a greater preference for Clinton (though there have been exceptions, such as Connecticut and Massachusetts). In context, the real news here is that Jews are more likely to support Obama than white Protestants or Catholics of any sort. For although Protestants (including “other Christians”) slightly favor Obama, white Protestants prefer Clinton 56 percent to 34 percent (just about the same percentages as Catholics).

Easter at TUCC

Fox News’ Jeff Goldblatt covered Easter services yesterday at Trinity United Church of Christ. As Goldblatt explains, the services did address the recent controversy referring to Rev. Wright’s fall from grace as “a public lynching”. Here are some highlights. trinityby luvnews