Christians don’t heart Capitalism

More American think that “capitalism and the free market system are at odds with Christian values” than think they are “consistent” (44 percent to 38 percent)–and Christians alone feel the same way by a slightly wider margin (46 percent to 38 percent), according to the latest Public Religion Research Institute/Religion News Service survey. But PRRRI/RNS hasn’t broken down the responses by religious tradition. We do learn that the percentages are more than reversed among those who identify with the Tea Party, 56 percent of whom believe that the two systems of values are consistent while 35 percent think they are at odds. My guess is that white evangelicals look a lot more like Tea Partiers than other Christians, while Catholics go strongly the other way. And what about the Nones?

Scholar challenges Thursday date of Last Supper

LONDON (RNS) A top British scientist claims his biblical, historical and astronomical research shows Christians have been observing Jesus’ Last Supper on the wrong day of the week. Cambridge University Professor Colin Humphreys says Jesus’ final meal with his disciples actually was eaten on the Wednesday before the Crucifixion — one day earlier than has been traditionally accepted. The mix-up, Humphreys concludes in his new book, “The Mystery of the Last Supper,” may be because Jesus and disciples Matthew, Mark and Luke used one calendar, but fellow disciple John used another. Humphreys notes the Gospels attributed to the first three claimed the last meal coincided with the Jewish Passover, whereas John’s Gospel says the meal took place “before” Passover. Eminent biblical scholar F.F. Bruce once described that contradiction as “the thorniest problem in the New Testament,” but Humphreys said, “if we use science and the Gospels hand in hand, we can actually prove that there was no contradiction.”

Study: Congregations Slowly Recovering From Recession

(RNS) The recession was a double-barrel blow to American congregations: directly hurting their budgets while also stretching them thin due to increased needs for counseling, emergency housing and other social services. But the worst seems to be over, according to a report released Thursday (April 21) that found that one in 10 have begun to recover from the loss, and more than 40 percent are now stable or increasing financially. The “Holy Toll” report, based on the 2010 Faith Communities Today national survey of more than 20 religious groups, found that more than half (57 percent) of U.S. congregations reported their income had declined due to the recession. Researcher David A. Roozen, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, said larger congregations seem to be recovering more easily as endowments and investment income rebound, and more members who can help them grow their way out of deficits. His theory echoes last month’s State of the Plate report by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and Christianity Today International’s church management team, which found smaller churches had suffered a disproportionate drop in giving last year.

Poll: Americans see clash between values of Christianity, capitalism

(RNS) Are Christianity and capitalism a marriage made in heaven, as some conservatives believe, or more of a strained relationship in need of some serious couples’ counseling? A new poll released Thursday (April 21) found that more Americans (44 percent) see the free market system at odds with Christian values than those who don’t (36 percent), whether they are white evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Catholics or minority Christians. But in other demographic breakdowns, several categories lean the other way: Republicans and Tea Party members, college graduates and members of high-income households view the systems as more compatible than not. The poll, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service, found that although conservative Christians and evangelicals tend to want their clergy to speak out on issues like abortion and homosexuality, they also tend to hold left-of-center views on some economic issues. “Throughout the Bible, we see numerous passages about being our brother’s keeper, welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and healing the sick,” said Andrew Walsh, author of “Religion, Economics and Public Policy” and a religion professor at Culver-Stockton College.

Cookbook preserves family recipes lost in Holocaust

(RNS) The last time Regina Finer’s mother cooked the soft, dense potato dumplings called kluskies, Regina couldn’t have been more than 12. It was the same year the Nazis took Finer’s parents from their home in the Warsaw ghetto — she never saw them again — and sent her, her sister and an aunt to the Majdanek concentration camp. Finer’s mother never got a chance to teach her daughter how to make the dumplings, a Passover specialty. By the time Finer landed in America with a new husband and young child, she brought with her only persistent yet elusive memories of her mother’s cooking. Even at age 84, she can still recall the sizzle of a potato latke hitting a hot pan, the faint scent of almond in the gefilte fish, the comforting pillow-like bulk of those kluskies.

Love lost and found on opposite sides of border

BARTA’A, Israel (RNS) Fatmeh Kabaha spent most of her life surrounded by her brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews in a small Palestinian village just minutes from the border that separates the Palestinian territories from Israel. Six years ago, she married a fellow Palestinian widower who lived on the Israeli side of the “green line” that slices through town. But finding love on one side of the wall, she found, meant leaving behind her family on the other. In 2002 at the height of the second Palestinian uprising, Israel passed an amendment to its Citizenship Law that effectively banned all citizens — Arabs and Jews alike — from marrying Palestinians living in the West Bank or Gaza if they intended to live inside Israel. For people like Kabaha, it means applying for a temporary resident permit to live with her husband in Israel.

Wednesday’s Religion News Roundup

The U.S. Catholic bishops will review compliance with church guidelines on sexual abuse, including a probe into the putative “breakdown” in Philly, where 29 priests were recently suspended, CNS reports. One priest said he is “angry as hell” and feels “duped” by the Philly Archdiocese because he was not informed that priests he was asked to reassign had sexually abused children. Philly parishioners are rallying around innocent priests and/or withholding donations to the archdiocese. As the royal wedding approaches, British PM David Cameron says rules banning Roman Catholics from the throne should be scrapped. Philippine President Aquino said he is willing to risk excommunication from the Catholic Church rather than veto a birth-control bill.

COMMENTARY: Psst … I’m praying for you

(RNS) I have a confession to make. I love to pray … for strangers. I don’t know when my praying for strangers started. Perhaps it was when an ambulance left our neighborhood and I realized that some hapless soul trapped in a failing body needed medical assistance that I was incapable of offering.

Mitch Daniels, Arab-American

There’s some snickering taking place on the left about Indiana governor Mitch Daniels receiving the Arab-American Institute’s 2011 Najeeb Halaby Award for Public Service at AAI’s May 4 gala. Daniels, it turns out, is half Syrian, his paternal grandparents having immigrated from near Homs early in the last century.They were Christians–he’s Presbyterian–but no doubt (heh, heh, heh) his ethnic origin will make this most presentable of undeclared Republican presidential candidates persona non grata to the Islamophobes of the GOP. Really? So far as I can tell, there have been no overt expressions of concern about Daniels’ Arab antecedents on the right. But perhaps something of the sort can be read between the lines of anti-Daniels chatter by the neo-con likes of Mark Levin and Jennifer Rubin, both of whom have been called out by commenters as Jews bringing some anti-Arab bias to the table.  Daniels has, most famously this election cycle, run afoul of social conservatives by proposing a “truce” on social issues.

Beatification of Nazi martyrs divides Lutherans, Catholics

LUEBECK, Germany (RNS) Residents of this north German city have long taken pride in four native sons — three Catholic priests and a Lutheran pastor — who were beheaded in quick succession on Nov. 10, 1943 by the Nazi regime. The commingled blood of Catholic priests Johannes Prassek, Hermann Lange, Eduard Mueller and Lutheran pastor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink spawned an ecumenical cooperation between the city’s majority Lutherans and minority Catholics that still lasts. But the Vatican’s decision to beatify the three priests on Saturday (June 25) — but not Stellbrink — is testing that ecumenical spirit, and has some religious leaders worried that the event could drive a wedge between the two communities. “People worry that the priests who are beatified will be seen as higher than Stellbrink, and that the focus will be on the three, not the four,” said the Rev. Constanze Maase, pastor of Luther Church in Luebeck.

Obama invokes Christian beliefs at Easter prayer breakfast

WASHINGTON (RNS) President Obama on Tuesday (April 19) said Jesus’ death and resurrection on Easter “puts everything else in perspective,” at a White House event that showcased his increasing comfort with discussing his faith. Using the kind of personal religious language that he had once shied away from in public, Obama spoke of “the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross” in an Easter prayer breakfast for about 150 guests and staff. “And we’re reminded that in that moment, (Jesus) took on the sins of the world — past, present and future — and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection,” Obama said. The Easter event displayed the president’s willingness to engage religion on his own terms, even has he has decided not to be a regular churchgoer or fully embrace public events like the annual National Day of Prayer. The Easter breakfast — Obama’s second, and following a Passover seder at the White House on Monday — also reflects an ongoing effort to combat lingering doubts about the president’s faith.

State Department fires back at ambassador

WASHINGTON (RNS) The State Department fired back at a prominent Catholic ambassador who said the agency has a “rigidly narrow” view of foreign policy that neglects the role of religion in world affairs. “I can’t imagine an agency that has a broader portfolio,” State Department spokesman Evan Owen said on Monday (April 18). “We have an ambassador for religious freedom; we have an office for international religious freedom; we publish two reports a year on religious freedom; we maintain a list of countries of particular concern for religious freedom,” Owen said. Douglas Kmiec, who announced on Sunday he plans to resign as ambassador to Malta on Aug. 15, aired his complaints in letters to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Bishops defend criticism of top theologian

WASHINGTON (RNS) Under fire for criticizing a popular theologian, the U.S. Catholic bishops said they must occasionally assume the role of referee and rule wayward thinkers out of bounds. “Once ideas are written and published by a theologian, they must stand on their own,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ committee on doctrine, said in a statement. “It is the bishops who are entrusted with the office of referee, who must call the play.” Earlier this month, Wuerl’s committee criticized a book by feminist theologian Sister Elizabeth Johnson that is widely used in Catholic universities and colleges. The book, “Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God,” criticizes and revises traditional church teaching, the bishops said.

British man sentenced to 70 days for burning Quran

LONDON (RNS) A British former soldier has been jailed for burning a copy of the Quran in front of shoppers in England — an act the judge described as “theatrical bigotry.” Andrew Ryan was sentenced to 70 days for setting fire to the Islamic holy book on Jan. 19 in Carlisle with a cigarette lighter after his first attempt with matches failed. The 22-year-old ex-soldier’s lawyer, Margaret Payne, said his fury was “directed toward radical Islam such as the burning of poppies and flags.” As he was led away to a cell on Monday (April 18), Ryan yelled, “What about burning poppies?”

Beatification of Nazi martyrs divides German Lutherans, Catholics

LUEBECK, Germany (RNS) Residents of this north German city have long taken pride in four native sons — three Catholic priests and a Lutheran pastor — who were beheaded in quick succession on Nov. 10, 1943 by the Nazi regime. The commingled blood of Catholic priests Johannes Prassek, Hermann Lange, Eduard Mueller and Lutheran pastor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink spawned an ecumenical cooperation between the city’s majority Lutherans and minority Catholics that still lasts. But the Vatican’s decision to beatify the three priests on June 25 — but not Stellbrink — is testing that ecumenical spirit, and has some religious leaders worried that the event could drive a wedge between the two communities. “People worry that the priests who are beatified will be seen as higher than Stellbrink, and that the focus will be on the three, not the four,” said the Rev. Constanze Maase, pastor of Luther Church in Luebeck.