Photo by Tamie Ross

Religious groups vie for Internet domain names

(RNS) The Roman Catholic Church and an evangelical megachurch are among the religious groups applying for newly available Internet domain names. But as .com and .org are replaced by more specific online addresses, should names such as .Catholic and .church be under the control of religious partisans? By Daniel Burke.

RNS photo courtesy The Green Collection.

Vatican exhibits spotlight the Bible, Vatican archive

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Two new exhibits in Rome offer delights for Christian history buffs. One displays documents from the storied Vatican Secret Archive, and the other is dedicated to the Bible, and displays more than 150 rare biblical texts and artifacts. By Alessandro Speciale.

RNS photo courtesy Asterio Tecson.

Muslims launch campaign to explain Shariah

(RNS) “If you are looking for problematic texts in the Quran, yes, they exist. They also exist in the Bible and Torah and other books,” said Emory University's Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im. “But Christians aren't judged based on what the Bible said 2,000 years ago, but on how they behave today. Why are Muslims judged according to these literalist interpretations, and not according to how the vast majority of good Muslims behave today?” By Omar Sacirbey.

Religion News Service file photo by Michael Falco.

U.S. mosques report rapid growth in past 10 years

WASHINGTON (RNS) Researchers plan to release a comprehensive census of American mosques on Wednesday, charting their growth, followers and their leaders' interpretations of Islam. By Lauren Markoe.

Reinhold Niebuhr:  Man of the Hour

Reinhold Niebuhr is Unseen Force in 2008 Elections
RNS’ Benedicta Cipolla analyzes the increasing influence of Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr on Democrats in the upcoming presidential election, in this week’s full text article, linked above. Quote:
University of Virginia religious studies professor Charles Mathewes suggests Niebuhr “is the best theologian to think about things if you want to think about sin without being cynical.” Mathewes said he sees in Obama “the complexity of the Niebuhrian outlook,” but he also believes Hillary Clinton possesses “theological depth I think people don’t pick up on.”

Elvis:  The King of Gospel

Backup Singer Shares Elvis’ More Tender Gospel Side
RNS’ Michelle C. Rindels interviews former Elvis Presley backup singer Joe Moscheo, who has written the forthcoming book “The Gospel Side of Elvis,” in this week’s full text article, linked above. Quote:
[Elvis’] gospel side is a rich one. Some of his first recordings were songs like “Softly and Tenderly (Jesus is Calling).” He won two Grammys for his gospel albums, “How Great Thou Art” and “He Touched Me,” and according to John Styll, president of GMA, there is the simple “fact that he loved gospel music.”

WWJD?  NAE Stands Firm

Evangelicals Affirm Stance on Environment, Oppose Torture
RNS’ Adelle M. Banks reports that the National Association of Evangelicals has supported a staffer that some thought to be “too environmentally friendly” and endorsed a statement condemning torture, in this week’s full-text article, linked above. But James Dobson won’t be happy. Quotes:
Focus on the Family Chairman James Dobson and two dozen other evangelical leaders had asked the board to consider ousting the Rev. Richard Cizik, the NAE’s vice president for governmental affairs, because of his “relentless campaign” against global warming. and
In a March 1 letter to NAE Board Chairman L. Roy Taylor, Dobson and other signatories had expressed concern that Cizik and others were moving the emphasis of evangelicals from the “great moral issues of our time,” including abortion and homosexuality.

Herod:  Nice Guy?

Historians, Fans Defend the `Real’ King Herod
Nope. King Herod certainly doesn’t qualify as a nice guy, but his image has been buffed and shined of late, as Nicole Neroulias reports in this full text RNS article, linked above. Quote:
Annually vilified in Christmas pageants as the tyrant responsible for the slaughter of Bethlehem’s baby boys and for chasing Mary, Joseph and Jesus into Egypt, Herod the Great should receive more balanced treatment, some historians and academics argue.

Letters to God found dumped off New Jersey coast –

Like many a weary traveler, it seems some of our prayers got stuck in New Jersey. Suprisingly, it wasn’t on I-95. About 300 letters to God -from the funny (let me win the lottery twice, please) to the scary (get this guy off my back, or else) to the downright plaintive-were found bobbing in a plastic bag off the coast of Atlantic City. Quote … “I guess rather than just throw them in the garbage, maybe they thought they’d set them out to sea to bless these people,” he said.

Presbyterians:  All Politics Are Local?

In Seismic Shift, Presbyterians Make Room for Gay Clergy
RNS’ David E. Anderson reports from Birmingham, Alabama in this week’s full-text article, linked above. Quote:
The nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination, in a seismic shift on the role of gays and lesbians in the church, voted on Tuesday (June 20) to allow local and regional bodies to ordain gays to the church’s ministries.

Torah Cover:  The Return

Torah Cover That Survived Nazis Returns to New York Family
Marilyn Henry reports on a Torah cover returned to its rightful owners after being lost in Nazi-era Austria in this week’s RNS full text article, linked above. Quote:
The Wesel Torah cover is the second prominent Jewish ritual object to be returned in five years. Much attention has been focused on the recovery of artworks that were looted from Jewish families during the Nazi era, but more needs to be devoted to ceremonial and ritual objects….

Hamas:  A Religious Issue

Religious Groups Divided Over U.S. Role Regarding Hamas
The RNS full-text article of the week (linked above) looks at religious reaction to Hamas’ victory in the recent elections in Palestine. Quote:
“Religious groups, who frequently have a limited but respected voice on foreign policy, say the emergence of Hamas moves the story beyond pure politics. Jews say their spiritual homeland is in peril, churches worry about the future of the dwindling Christian presence in the Holy Land, and nearly everyone is concerned about Hamas’ embrace of militant Islam.?

Benedict:  The Church First

A Pope Focused on Changing His Church, Not the World
RNS Vatican correspondent Stacy Meichtry examines Pope Benedict’s first nine months, and finds that “it’s apparent Benedict is not out to change the world. He’s out to change his church.” For more, click the link above for the RNS full-text article of the week. Quote:
In a rare interview with Polish radio in October, Benedict said he aimed to explain and clarify the doctrines he helped develop under John Paul rather than multiply them. “My personal mission is not to issue many new documents, but to ensure that (John Paul’s) documents are assimilated,” he said.

Vatican Gay Ban:  Now Official

The Vatican has now officially published its much-leaked guidelines banning openly gay priests. See our full text article of the week, here. Some key quotes:
“Critics have claimed that the widely leaked document’s ban on men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” is too ambiguous for local Catholic officials to effectively screen the sexual orientations of priestly candidates. But the Vatican forcefully responded Tuesday, asserting that the ban was clear, since the church regards homosexuality as a condition akin to a medical disorder rather than a fixed sexual identity or orientation.”

Sikhs take on discrimination; Update on Vatican and Israel’s property dispute; New Orleans&#82

Friday’s RNS report begins with an article on a new campaign launched by Sikhs in response to the increasing discrimination they’ve faced since Sept. 11. Kabuika Kamunga writes: “A number of Sikh-American groups have begun a campaign to explain their religion to the American public and to differentiate their beliefs from those of Muslims. There have been more than 600 reports of discrimination and violence against Sikhs since 9/11, according to the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Sikh men often have been misidentified as Muslims and Arabs because they wear turbans in accordance with their religious tradition, but the headwear has led some people to believe they are allied with Al Qaeda. “My son and his friends were so badly harassed just because they (wear) the turban,” said Ladi Kaur, a Rockville, Md., woman who owns an auto parts wholesale firm and is a member of the Sikh community.