VA Baptists’ Separationist Push Back

Last week, the Virginia Baptist Mission Board decided it was time to
push back against the historical revisionism of Barton, Skousen, and
Beck. that tries to pretend that the United States was not founded on
the principle of separation of church and state. So it voted to commission
a pamphlet for lay readers setting the record straight. If anyone is
entitled to do so, it’s the Virginia Baptists, who worked hand in glove
with James Madison and Thomas Jefferson to get the state legislature to
pass the aboriginal American charter of separation, Jefferson’s Statute for Religion Freedom, in 1786. The VBMB is an arm of the Baptist General Association of Virginia,
an umbrella organization dating back to 1823 that retains a good deal
of the old Baptist separationist spirit, and finds itself regularly at
odds with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Obama to visit largest mosque in Indonesia

(RNS) President Obama plans to visit one of the world’s largest mosques during his trip to Indonesia in November, the White House announced Thursday (Oct. 28). The visit to Istiqlal Mosque on Nov. 10 will precede a speech about U.S. outreach to Muslims throughout the world, said Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser. Rhodes said the mosque visit does not reflect an attempt to overcome the recent controversy over whether an Islamic community center should be built near Ground Zero.

Gallup: Most religious Americans have high levels of well-being

(RNS) The most religious Americans also have the highest rates of well-being, according to a new Gallup survey. The finding is based on a survey of more than 550,000 people about their physical and emotional health and their work environment. Overall, the very religious received a score on Gallup’s well-being index of 68.7 percent, while both the moderately religious and the nonreligious received a score of 64.2 percent. The very religious were defined as those who said religion is an important part of their daily lives and they attend worship services at least every week or almost every week. Researchers did not determine why the very religious had higher levels of health and happiness.

Right wingers, Chelsea Clinton included on top Jews list

(RNS) Russian and right-wing Jews make a splash in this year’s list of influential people compiled by The Forward, the country’s largest national Jewish weekly newspaper. Crowning the 2010 “Forward 50,” published Oct. 26, are: Google co-founder Sergey Brin; U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va.; Misha Galperin, head of Jewish Agency International Development; Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan; and writer Nicole Krauss, author of the novel “Great House.” The newspaper’s staff spent months considering names, grouping entries into categories of activism, community, culture, demographics, economy, food, media, politics, religion, and science. Fifteen women made the cut this year, not including Chelsea Clinton, who is not Jewish but was tacked on as a “plus two” with her new husband, Marc Mezvinsky.

Friday’s Religion News Roundup

‘Tis a day for surveys, my friends. A new Gallup survey says very religious Americans are emotionally and physical healthier than other Americans. A new Pew poll shows white mainline Protestants and evangelicals abandoning congressional Democratic candidates in October. Catholics (despite the best intentions of Cardinal-designate Raymond Burke) are split evenly between Dems and Republicans. Forty-one percent of Air Force cadets who identified themselves as non-Christian said they were subjected to unwanted proselytizing at least once or twice last year, according to an AFA survey obtained by the AP.

Author tells personal tale of shooting and forgiveness

MOBILE, Ala. (RNS) In “The Devil in Pew Number Seven,” Rebecca Nichols Alonzo tells a deeply personal story of God, faith, murder and forgiveness. The story centers on her parents, a Holiness church pastor and his wife, who left Satsuma, Ala., in the 1970s to shepherd a flock in the struggling Free Welcome Holiness Church in Sellerstown, N.C. “They felt that God had called them,” Alonzo, now 40, says of her parents. Alonzo was a little girl at the time, five years older than her brother, Daniel. She was almost eight on the evening of March 23, 1978, when Harris Williams walked into their house at supper and pulled out a .38-caliber pistol.

COMMENTARY: Faith communities must change with the times

(RNS) Our nation’s faith communities face extraordinary challenges in the new, soon-to-begin decade. But many clergy are in a state of denial, or worse still, believe their old ways will continue to work in a rapidly changing America. Peter Steinfels, the former New York Times religion writer and an astute observer of the Catholic community, recently noted that one of three American Catholics has left the church. Steinfels bemoans that bishops often fail to acknowledge the hemorrhaging that is taking place. While the decline of the mainline Protestant churches has been analyzed and reanalyzed, the membership decline has not abated.

Pope says science can unite humans with God

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI told scientists that their research can lead to knowledge of God by revealing the natural order of the universe. The pope made his remarks on Thursday (Oct. 28) before a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican. The evident logic governing the universe “leads us to admit the existence of an all-powerful Reason, which is other than that of man, and which sustains the world,” Benedict said. “This is the meeting point between the natural sciences and religion,” the pope said.

White House denies rumors about Obama and Sikh temple

(RNS) The White House has denied reports that President Obama will avoid a Sikh shrine while visiting India next week because the required head covering might have fanned false rumors about his faith. “The decision we made was driven by … the interests of time, how to best advance our common interests with India in these three days,” said Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser on Wednesday (Oct. 27). Sikh leaders had hoped the president would visit the temple, which they consider their holiest site.

Southern Baptist pastor appeals suit over Obama’s birth

(RNS) Southern Baptist gadfly Wiley Drake will appeal a court’s dismissal of his suit claiming President Obama was not born in the U.S. and is ineligible for the presidency. Obama has a Hawaiian birth certificate but Drake and others in the “birther” movement claim he is not a natural-born citizen. Drake, a former vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, has prayed for Obama’s death and led a Baptist boycott of the Walt Disney Co. He is a pastor in California. Nathan Oleson, a law clerk with the conservative U.S. Justice Foundation, said Thursday (Oct.

Service blends American Indian and Christian beliefs

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (RNS) Smoke wafts upward as the Rev. Mike Peters blows on the Knick-Knick, a sacred herbal blend of spearmint leaves, red willow bark, sage, sweet grass and bayberry bush. “As the smoke goes up, the Creator’s blessings go down,” Peters says. A dozen people sitting in a circle listen as he prays. “I pray for the healing of hearts,” Peters says.

Wellness and Religion

If you’re not religious at all, it’s not going to increase your wellness
to become moderately religious. Now if you become very religious, it’ll
increase your wellness a little bit. According to Gallup. Moral: Don’t worry about the relationship between religiosity and wellness.

Thursday’s Religion News Roundup

President Obama will stay next month at the Indian hotel attacked by terrorists in 2008, according to the White House. Gandhi’s museum and grave are also on the itinerary; the Sikh’s Golden Shrine is not, though the administration shot down speculation that Obama is dodging the shrine to avoid being photographed in a headscarf and fan false rumors about his faith. A Tea Party founder says he stands by a column in which he urged the defeat of U.S. Rep Keith Ellison because he is a Muslim. A Saudi prince says the proposed Islamic center in NYC should be moved out of respect for 9/11 victims. A man purporting to be Osama bin Laden warned France to remove troops from Afghanistan and lift its burqa ban, according to a tape broadcast by Al Jazeera on Wednesday. Ultra-Orthodox Jews’ special status in Israel – including dispensations from mandatory military service, separate schools, and public subsidies to study the Bible – is coming under new scrutiny, according to the AP.

Danforth centers hopes to set tone for civil religion

ST. LOUIS (RNS) Just across from the Gephardt Institute for Public Service at Washington University, employees are moving into a new center named for another legendary Missouri politician. The John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics, launched last year with a $30 million gift from the Danforth Foundation, officially opened its doors on Tuesday (Oct. 26) with an inaugural speech at the university’s Graham Chapel by journalist and historian Jon Meacham. The proximity of two centers named for former Democratic Congressman Richard A. Gephardt and former Republican Sen. John C. Danforth is emblematic of what Danforth anticipates the new center will do for the tenor of political conversation in the country.

La. parish bans Halloween on Sunday

NEW ORLEANS (RNS) Some families may be debating whether to send kids out to trick-or-treat on Sunday night, but there’s no debate in Louisiana’s Livingston Parish, where local laws forbid the observance of Halloween on a Sunday. This year, for the first time, in unincorporated parts of the parish of 120,000, Halloween is on Monday, Nov. 1. Trick-or-treating hours are 6 to 8 p.m. on the prescribed day, and violators risk a fine of up to $500 or up to 30 days in jail. A number of parish officials were unavailable for comment, but news accounts indicate that for years parish authorities have legislated when to observe Halloween.