Window blessing

The Interdependence Project, a Buddhist-based eco-activism group, recently completed its 24-hour sit-a-thon in a New York City shop window. ID’ers meditated in shifts for 24 hours (one sat for the entire 24 hours) Nov. 6-7, and say they raised $30,000 in donations, which will be used for building a community center and developing a radio show, along with other projects. It’s kind of a new take on the hippies’ old sit-ins, no? ABC Home, which I don’t know much about but looks to be a pretty cool store, hosted the “Sit Down, Rise Up Project.”

Paper denies editor’s complaint about attending Unification wedding

WASHINGTON (RNS) The acting publisher of the Washington Times denied a complaint filed by former editorial page editor Richard Miniter that he was forced to attend a mass wedding of the Unification Church, which owns the newspaper. In a complaint filed Tuesday (Nov. 17) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Miniter claimed he was forced to attend a Unification Church ceremony performed by the church’s leader, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. The Washington Times was founded in 1982 by Moon and is known for its conservative view on political and social issues. It is owned by the Unification Church and several of the paper’s leaders have been members of the church.

Hand-written Bible up for sale on eBay

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (RNS) After nine months and 22,579 miles on the road, Zondervan’s handwritten Bible arrived back home with verses inscribed by 31,173 people. Now, one of only two copies of the three-volume, 2,200 page leather-bound Bible is on the eBay auction block, Zondervan announced Thursday (Nov. 19). Interested bidders can visit Zondervan’s eBay store to make an offer.

Lutheran dissidents say new church body in the works

(RNS) In late September, Lutheran dissidents said they would hunker down for a year and study whether to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and create a new church body. Less than two months later, on Wednesday (Nov. 19) Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Renewal) announced that indeed such a body “will likely be necessary.” “What happened was the idea of a discussion for a year became kind of scary for people who want to leave now,” said the Rev. David Baer, a CORE spokesman and pastor of an ELCA church in Whitewood, S.D. Baer said his own church will vote this weekend on whether to join CORE, which he estimates counts around 700 congregations as members. CORE said no “firm decisions” have been made about how the new church body will be structured; recommendations will be released in February.

As Haggard returns, questions linger

(RNS) After disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard decided to start holding prayer meetings at his Colorado home, advisers and observers, perhaps not surprisingly, reacted with disappointment. But the fact that he’s chosen to host the meetings within a few miles of the Colorado Springs megachurch that dismissed him three years ago — because of a sex and drug scandal involving a male escort — has drawn stronger reactions. “When you think of the ethics of that, it, to me, just defies explanation,” said the Rev. H.B. London, who chaired Haggard’s restoration committee and is vice president of church and clergy at Focus on the Family, also in Colorado Springs. The Rev. Joe Trull, editor of the journal Christian Ethics Today, said starting a religious gathering near one’s former church is “disrupting” and can lead to accusations of “sheep stealing” from a former flock. “I don’t think he should ever start a church or a group in the same community as his former church,” said Trull, co-author of a book on ministerial ethics.

Mass: The Video Game

Tired of dragging your family to Mass every Sunday and spending precious seconds deciding which pew to sit in? Well, Prayer Works Interactive has the solution for home-bound Catholics everywhere: Mass: We Pray-The Video Game. Using a cruciform joystick, players can “participate in 24 unique and exhilarating rituals. Make the Sign of the Cross, sprinkle Holy Water, take Collection and even give Holy Communion. Every motion and nuance of a blessing or ritual is detected in three dimensions and replicated on-screen,” according to a news release.

Thursday’s religion round-up

The Washington Times is disputing a former editor’s complaint that he was forced to attend a mass wedding of the Unification Church (which owns the newspaper). And Catholic bishops are are rejecting charges (again) that their central anti-poverty initiative funds leftist and anti-church programs. Disaffected Lutherans who can’t abide a decision to allow openly gay clergy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America say they will form their own church body, not just an independent free-standing synod within the ELCA. Speaking of the disaffected, the Italian magazine L’Espresso details late-night conversations between the archbishop of Canterbury and a high-level Catholic cardinal over the pope’s offer to shelter Anglican dissidents. One of two copies of Zondervan’s handwritten Bible is up for sale on eBay and those atheist bus signs have finally made their way to the North American center of godlessness: Portland, Ore. (just kidding, Portland).

Does sexual frustration fuel Islamic violence?

(RNS) Did alleged Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan lose control, at least in part, because he was sexually frustrated? That’s one of the questions being asked in the investigation into the Nov. 5 rampage that left 13 people dead and dozens more injured. According to reports, Hasan visited a nearby strip club in the weeks before the massacre and was frustrated by his inability to find a pious Muslim wife.

In Mo. schools, ancient calendar at center of debate

CLARKSON VALLEY, Mo. (RNS) Dean Mandis, insurance executive and father of two students, stood before the Rockwood School District’s superintendent and seven School Board members at Crestview Middle School. He had three minutes to broach an issue that had been bothering him for a month or so. His daughter, an eighth-grader, had come home from school recently with evidence that she was being taught something other than the traditional calendar dates of B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, Latin for “in the year of the Lord.”) Instead, her teacher was quizzing social studies students on alternative calendar designations that are increasingly common in higher education — C.E., for Common Era, and B.C.E., for Before the Common Era. “Introducing B.C.E./C.E. in conjunction with B.C./A.D. in the classroom is to deny the historical basis of the dating system and ultimately leads to confusion,” Mandis told the board.

COMMENTARY: Hitler’s dead. Let’s keep it that way.

(RNS) Holocaust. Hitler. Auschwitz. Opponents of health care reform have used each of these terms as hateful political weapons in the public arena, and as a result, America is infected with a dangerous social cancer that corrupts civil discourse and splinters our society. Since the end of World War II, such terms have been “off limits” in any political discussion inside the United States.

Bishops react

In his RNS report yesterday, Dan Burke got a couple if bishops to comment on the John Jay study de-coupling clerical homosexuality from sexual abuse. Most notable was St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt’s “I wouldn’t put a lot of credence in it.” Nienstedt, as Burke notes, was the guy who led the Vatican’s post-scandal investigation of homosexuality in the seminaries, the idea being that if you got rid of the gays, the abuse would stop. Not that Nienstedt doesn’t have a fall-back position; to wit: “a priest has to be accessible to all his people,
and someone with a strong same-sex attraction would not be good to have
in the pastoral care of people.”

Americans take dim view of funding Muslim charities

WASHINGTON (RNS) Americans look less favorably on mosques applying for government funding than other religious charities, a new survey shows. While 27 percent of U.S. adults polled oppose religious charities applying for government funding to provide services to the needy, more than half — 52 percent — were against Muslim houses of worship being eligible for such money, reports the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The opposition to mosques seeking such funding increased slightly from 2001, when 46 percent were against it. The only charities that received greater opposition were “groups that encourage religious conversion as part of the services they provide,” whose eligibility for funding was opposed by 63 percent of respondents. Overall, the survey conducted with the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that the faith-based initiative started by President Bush and continued by President Obama receives broad support from the public.

Atheist group crowns winner of blasphemy contest

(RNS) Blasphemy. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. And the T-shirt reads, “Faith is no reason.” The Center for Inquiry (CFI), an international advocacy group based in Amherst, N.Y., picked that brief phrase as the winner of its first-ever blasphemy contest. Contestants were invited to submit slogans of 20 words or fewer that were critical of religious faith.

N.J. student sues over abortion protest

BRIDGETON, N.J. (RNS) A Bridgeton High School student has filed suit against the local school board after officials did not allow her to participate in an October protest against abortion during school hours. The student, identified only as C.H. in the suit because she is a minor, said she had planned to hand out anti-abortion pamphlets, wear an armband with “Life” written on it and remain silent throughout the day unless she was called upon in class. Oct. 20 marked the sixth year of this protest, known as the Pro-life Day of Silent Solidarity. It is organized by Stand True, a Troy, Ohio-based ministry.

Gay groups praise report on gay priests and sexual abuse

BALTIMORE (RNS) Gay Catholics and victims of clergy sexual abuse are hailing preliminary results of a study commissioned by U.S. Catholic bishops that says gay priests are no more likely than straight clergy to sexually abuse minors. Still, some bishops gathered here for the final day of their semi-annual meeting said it is premature to say whether the church leaders who had asserted such a link were wrong. Researchers from New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Tuesday (Nov. 17) presented initial findings from their multi-year study of the clergy sexual abuse scandal, which has resulted in some 14,000 claims of abuse and cost the U.S. Catholic Church about $2.6 billion in settlements since 1950. The study, which is due to be completed next year, was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops after the scandal overtook the U.S. church in 2002.