Friday’s Religion News Roundup

Woke up this morning, normal day. Checked the weather, the in-box, the Rapture Index. Muammar Gaddafi’s death seems to have had no effect on the pending apocalypse. For those with short memories, today is Take 2 of radio preacher Harold Camping’s Judgment Day prophecy. Reached at his California home this morning, Camping simply said, “There’s nothing to report here.”

Church wrestles with growth of Wisconsin shrine to Mary

CHAMPION, Wis. (RNS) Philip and Barbara Hesselbein came to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help to pray for a grandson who has an inoperable brain tumor. Darlene Searcy prayed for her family and for herself; she has cancer. Mary Spakowicz, who also has cancer, came “because God will hear me here.” The afflicted and the faithful have long made pilgrimages to the quiet country site where Belgian immigrant Adele Brise said in 1859 that she saw the Virgin Mary three times.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Southern Baptists, change thy name

CHAMPION, Wis. (RNS) Philip and Barbara Hesselbein came to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help to pray for a grandson who has an inoperable brain tumor. Darlene Searcy prayed for her family and for herself; she has cancer. Mary Spakowicz, who also has cancer, came “because God will hear me here.” The afflicted and the faithful have long made pilgrimages to the quiet country site where Belgian immigrant Adele Brise said in 1859 that she saw the Virgin Mary three times.

Who says Mormons are Christians

According to the Public Religion Research Institute, a majority (57 percent) of white evangelicals and a plurality of black Protestants (43 percent) do not think that Mormons are Christians. Majorities and pluralities of all other groups (PRRI doesn’t break them out) are prepared to accept Mormons’ own self-identification as Christians. I assume this includes Jews, and for good reason.Mormons believe in the divinity of Christ, and believe that Jesus’s Atonement is necessary for salvation. These doctrines put them into the Christian camp, so far as Jews are concerned. Just like, say, Oneness Pentecostals, who also fall outside the bounds of traditional Trinitarianism but who yield to no one in their estimate of Christ’s divinity.

Thursday Godbytes

So apparently there are actually a lot of atheists in foxholes, the Atlantic reports. In other atheist news, author and “New Atheist” Richard Dawkins has some harsh words for philosopher and Christian apologist William Lane Craig. Craig reportedly challenged Dawkins to a debate about religion, but Dawkins isn’t interested, calling Craig “an apologist for genocide.” CNN reports that American pastors are hoping to have a louder voice in the 2012 presidential election. Well, it looks pastors are already making their voices heard: Folks are still talking about the Rev. Robert Jeffess’ attack on presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s faith.

What would Jesus laugh at? Quite a bit, says Colbert’s chaplain

WASHINGTON (RNS) Three priests — a Dominican, a Franciscan and a Jesuit — walk into a bar. According to the Rev. James Martin, it’s not only the opening to a good joke, but quite possibly the saving grace of religion. Martin’s new book, “Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life,” says religious people would be a lot happier — and holier — if they lightened up and took themselves a little less seriously. “Joy, as a number of spiritual writers have said, is the surest sign of the Holy Spirit,” the Jesuit priest said at a recent gig at Georgetown University. But, he continued, “there are certain Roman Catholics who seem to think that being religious means being deadly serious all the time.”

D.C. pastor to lead Democrats’ faith outreach

WASHINGTON (RNS) As President Obama gears up his re-election campaign, the Democratic National Committee has tapped a well-connected Washington pastor to lead the party’s religious outreach. The Rev. Derrick Harkins is senior pastor of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, one of Washington’s oldest historically black churches, where Obama and his family worshipped right before his inauguration. Harkins is also a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals, a nationwide umbrella group, and Faith in Public Life, a liberal strategy center. Earlier this month, Obama hosted NAE leaders at the White House. “I have every expectation that people of faith will be a key part of a successful election for Democrats in 2012,” Harkins said in a statement on Thursday (Oct.

Thursday’s Religion News Roundup

Tired of hearing talk of a “shariah creep,” Muslim-American leaders have issued a fatwa declaring that there is no “contradiction between being faithful Muslims committed to God (Allah) and being loyal American citizens.” The Fiqh Council of North America’s ruling, a “Resolution On Being Faithful Muslims and Loyal Americans,” responds to what its authors call “erroneous perceptions and Islamophobic propaganda.” A former Homeland Security Department civil rights lawyer implored the federal government to investigate the NYPD’s secret surveillance of Muslim communities. KC Bishop Robert Finn has no plans to resign, according to diocesan officials, despite his recent indictment. More than 770 people have joined a Facebook page called “Bishop Finn Must Go,” which, for some reason, has a pinwheel as its profile picture.

Family behind ‘Big Love’ comes out from the shadows

(RNS) Joe Darger sees his unconventional marriage as a loving commitment to family, one that makes him a better man and brings him closer to God. Utah law, however, sees it as a crime. That’s because Darger, a 42-year-old construction management consultant who lives outside Salt Lake City, is married to three women — Alina, 42, and 41-year-old twin sisters Vicki and Valerie. They’ve followed the footsteps of their polygamous parents, and they’re passing their independent fundamentalist Mormon faith down to their 24 children. Now they’ve gone public, passing on their story and trying to eliminate a stigma with a new book, “Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage.”

COMMENTARY: New insights into a landmark trial

(RNS) When asked to name two famous trials that took place in Jerusalem, most people quickly mention the trial of Jesus nearly 2,000 years ago. They typically get tripped up, though, on the second one. Enter Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt’s recent book, “The Eichmann Trial,” an analysis of the lasting legacy of the trial of Adolf Eichmann in an Israeli court a half-century ago. Eichmann, a lieutenant colonel in Hitler’s dreaded SS organization, was the principal logistical military officer in charge of carrying out the Nazi “Final Solution” — the mass murder of 6 million Jews. After World War II ended in 1945, Eichmann escaped from an Allied prisoner camp in Germany and found safe haven in Argentina.

Jeffress on religious tests

Obviously smarting from the slings and arrows of outraged pundits, Rev. Robert Jeffress took to WaPo’s op-ed page yesterday to defend himself. And his defense is worth a careful look, because rarely (I’m tempted to say never) has a leader of the religious right argued so directly and publicly that Americans should use religious identity as a basis for voting. For starters, there can be no doubt that Jeffress really means it.First, discussion of a candidate’s faith is permissible. Over the past several days, talk show hosts have lectured me about Article VI of the Constitution,
which prohibits religious tests for public office, as if considering a
candidate’s faith is somehow unconstitutional, un-American or even
illegal. How ludicrous.

Pope appoints new ambassador to U.S.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI has named Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano as the Vatican’s next ambassador to the United States. The widely expected appointment was announced on Wednesday (Oct. 19). Vigano, 70, has served since July 2009 as the No. 2 official at the Governorate of Vatican City State, which oversees the 108-acre sovereign territory with 1,900 employees and an annual budget of $350 million.

Wednesday Godbytes

Actor Robert Downey Jr. – who has publicly struggled with bouts of substance abuse – took some time away from flying around in an Iron suit to ask Hollywood to “forgive” his controversy-ridden friend Mel Gibson. Downey, a self-described “Jewish-Buddhist,” claimed that Gibson had once recommended he find a faith “rooted in forgiveness,” a process he likened to “hugging the cactus,” whatever that means. For those of you who missed the umpteenth Republican debate last night, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was once again asked about comments made by an evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress decrying Mormonism as a “cult.” Still, it doesn’t look like the controversy will be dying down anytime soon: taking a cue from Jeffress, Seattle megapastor Mark Driscoll is now also publicly declaring Mormonism to be a cultic form of Christianity. Speaking of church problems, CNN reports GOP presidential candidate Hermain Cain attends a house of worship that may possess an unusual political liability: apparently, it’s too liberal.

WednesdayâÂ?Â?s Religion News Roundup

After a day’s hiatus for some routine website maintenance, we are back – and so were the Republican presidential hopefuls, who seem to debate as often as we write the roundup. Also back was the “religion question,” which is shorthand for the controversy over Rick Perry’s pastor-pal calling Mitt Romney’s Mormonism a “cult.” “I’ve heard worse,” Romney said, but he still pressed Perry to repudiate the remarks by Dallas megachurch leader Robert Jeffress. “I didn’t agree with it, Mitt, and I said so,” said a snippy Perry. “That’s fine,” said an exasperated Romney.

What happened in Vegas last night

Won’t stay in Vegas. Rick Perry was either surprisingly  (to me,
at least) unprepared for the Jeffress question, or (more likely) couldn’t manage
a coherent delivery of the answer he’d prepared. By contrast, Mitt Romney
came totally prepared, and hit the ball out of the park.The
colloquy (reprinted after the jump) went down like this. Anderson Cooper
asked, “Should voters pay attention to a candidate’s religion.” First,
Rick Santorum designated the moral teachings of your faith as fair game,
but not your “road to salvation.”