Steele It Is

It’s over. No doubt there will be plenty of effort expended trying to make the social conservatives happy. But Steele’s agenda is going to be big-tent, which will mean an official welcome mat for pro-choice Republicans. And that will not make the Dobson wing happy. At all.

The Paine Wink

I spent last evening at the Connecticut Forum, where Christopher Hitchens, Peter Gomes, and Harold Kushner spent a couple of hours amusing the crowd with quips and barbs about God, religion, faith, and reason. On the anti-God side, Hitchens believes he has a new ally in the White House; to wit, that Obama is a secret nonbeliever who signaled as much in his inaugural speech not only by including nonbelievers in his array of Americans-by-religion but also by (anonymously) quoting the words of Thomas Paine that George Washington read to the troops at Valley Forge:”Let it be told to the future world … that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive… that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”That was from the first of Paine’s Crisis articles, the one that famously begins: THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Former Bush liaison gets new focus

Former Bush administration liaison Tim Goeglein has a new job: vice president of external relations for Focus on the Family Action. “He will be our eyes and ears in Washington, helping ensure people of faith continue to be heard on the important issues facing our nation,” said Jim Daly, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based ministry’s political arm, in an announcement on its CitizenLink Web site. Goeglein was the liaison between the Bush White House and conservative Christians but resigned in February 2008 after plagiarism charges surfaced against him. Daly addressed those charges in a previous announcement on the CitizenLink Web site, saying Goeglein had accepted responsibility and put the matter behind him. “Tim has been forthright about his mistakes and humbly accepted the consequences of them – a pretty rare thing in Washington,” Daly said.

Flashback to 1981

OK, so this isn’t about religion, but it is about the other half of our lives here at RNS: journalism. My favorite part: the reference to the “2,000 or 3,000 residents of the Bay Area who own personal computers.” (h/t: Andrew Sullivan)

Update: Palin’s burned church to reopen

(RNS) An Alaska evangelical church attended by former Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin that was seriously damaged by a December fire is set to hold services in its building again on Sunday (Feb. 1). “Our building is looking more like a new construction every day, and less like a fire-damaged building,” reads an update on the Web site of Wasilla Bible Church. “On February 1, we return to our partially restored church building, with grateful hearts for all who have helped and prayed for us.” The fire at the church, which Palin sometimes attends, was ruled suspicious and a potential arson by authorities.

Oral Roberts University names new president

OKLAHOMA CITY (RNS) More than a year after Richard Roberts resigned as president of Oral Roberts University amid allegations of lavish spending, the charismatic Christian university in Tulsa has hired a new president. Mark Rutland, president of Southeastern University, a Christian liberal arts college in Lakeland, Fla., since 1999, will take the helm of ORU on July 1, the university’s board of trustees said Wednesday (Jan. 28). Rutland will become the third president in ORU’s 46-year history-after namesake Oral Roberts and son Richard Roberts-and the first not associated with the Roberts family. Interim president Ralph Fagin will return to his post as provost.

Jewish coalition calls for immigration reform

(RNS) Jewish groups are asking the Obama administration to make immigration reform a priority for the new president’s first 100 days, by suspending raids on businesses and private homes and developing a path to citizenship for undocumented families. Progress by Pesach, named for the Jewish holiday also known as Passover, which begins April 9 this year, refers to the time when Jews were strangers in the strange land of Egypt, said Gideon Aronoff, president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, one of the campaign sponsors. The campaign’s Web site,, aims to collect 10,000 signatures and send thousands of letters requesting “immigration reform, not raids” to Obama, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and other government officials over the next 10 weeks. “Undocumented immigration is a symptom of the broken immigration system,” Aronoff said. “Enforcement can’t possibly be the total package that government brings to solving the problem.”

Anglicans set to consider rival U.S. church

(UNDATED) Conservative Anglicans say they do not expect their new North American church to receive official approval from Anglican archbishops who will convene next week (Feb. 1-5) in Alexandria, Egypt. “We do expect that our situation will be discussed,” said the Rev. Peter Frank, a spokesman for the newly established Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). “At the same time, it would be very surprising if there was some kind of quick, game-changing action.” After years of disagreeing with the liberal majorities in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, conservatives broke off and formed a rival church last December.

Bishop Williamson again

Seems that Richard Williamson, the Holocaust-denying traditionalist bishop whose excommunicaton Pope Benedict canceled last week, just can’t help himself. On Tuesday, his superior announced that he’d forbidden Williamson from speaking publicly “on political or historical questions.” But the very next morning, an Italian newspaper quoted Williamson insisting: “There is no proof that there were gas chambers.” For what it’s worth, Williamson may have not have violated the letter of the gag order. His latest remarks were apparently made to a group of devotees visting him in the Argentinean monastery where he is currently staying.

China detains 80 Tibetans

Chinese authorities have begun a security sweep in Tibet ahead of the region’s most sensitive anniversary in years, with state media saying at least 81 people have been detained.

DuBois to lead FBI

That’s faith-based initiative, not Federal Bureau of Investigation (o how Washington loves its acronyms). The New York Times is reporting that Joshua DuBois, who led the faith outreach component of Obama’s campaign, has been tapped to head a revamped version of the White House office.

Survey finds God big in Mississippi, not so much in Vermont

WASHINGTON-Want to be almost certain you’ll have religious neighbors? Move to Mississippi. Prefer to be in the least religious state? Venture to Vermont. A new Gallup Poll, based on more than 350,000 interviews, finds that the Magnolia State is the one where the most people-85 percent-say yes when asked “Is religion an important part of your daily life?”

COMMENTARY: Do not pass go. Do not recant. Do not apologize.

(UNDATED) Sometimes life imitates art, and sometimes life imitates Monopoly. That’s what happened recently when Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of Richard Williamson, a British-born breakaway bishop. It was as if Williamson received the Vatican version of a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card. Do not pass go. Do not recant.

Muslims hopeful but wary about life under Obama

Many American Muslim leaders are eager to help President Barack Obama improve the U.S. image in the Islamic world, but they worry that their contribution might not always be welcome.