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c. 2006 Religion News Service

Outspoken Dutch Critic of Islam to Take D.C. Think Tank Post

LONDON (RNS) A Dutch politician who has become a leading critic of Islam is quitting the country’s parliament and moving to the United States to take a job with a conservative think tank with close ties to the Bush administration, the Times of London newspaper reported Tuesday (May 16).

Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who describes herself as a former Muslim, has gained prominence with her denunciations of European governments for what she claims is their failure to defend Western values against Islam.

“Those Muslims who wish to kill someone receive a great deal of support from their home countries,” she told the German newspaper Spiegel Online on Sunday. “We must defend ourselves if we wish to preserve our Western values. The price we pay is to be threatened.”

According to the Times, Hirsi Ali is reportedly accepting a post with the American Enterprise Institute, praised by Bush adviser Karl Rove for its “intellectual leadership” and “commitment to important ideas.”

The Times’ report said her decision to move to the United States emerged after the Dutch government said it would investigate her application for asylum in the wake of a television documentary which disclosed that she had falsified it.

“Yes, I did lie to get asylum in Holland,” she told journalists there. “I invented a story that would be consistent with the conditions for asylum.”

She has been a frequent critic of the concept of multiculturalism and earned the enmity of some Muslims for supporting the publication in European newspapers of 12 cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad _ one of which depicted him wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb.

Hirsi Ali has gained a reputation as one of Holland’s most strident critics of Islam and has lived under constant police guard after receiving death threats for denouncing the religion’s treatment of women.

She in turn has been denounced by Muslims for a film she scripted, “Submission,” dealing with domestic violence and alleged abuse of women in Islamic societies. The film’s director, Theo Van Gogh, a great-grand-nephew of the artist Vincent Van Gogh, was murdered by a Muslim extremist in 2004.

_ Al Webb

Jaroslav Pelikan, Historian of Christianity, Dies at 82

(RNS) Jaroslav Pelikan, whose wide-ranging histories of the treatment of Jesus, Mary and the Bible through the ages won both critical acclaim and a popular readership, died Saturday (May 13) at his home in Hamden, Conn. He was 82.

Pelikan was born on Dec. 17, 1923, in Akron, Ohio, the son of a Lutheran pastor.

His father came from what is now Slovakia and his mother was Serbian. His personal spiritual journey brought him from his Lutheran upbringing _ he graduated from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s Concordia Theological Seminary in 1946 and later taught at Valparaiso University in Indiana _ to the Orthodox Church in America, which he joined in 1998.

In 1962, Pelikan joined the faculty of Yale University. Over a long and prolific career he wrote nearly 40 books, most recently “Interpreting the Bible and the Constitution” in 2004 and “Whose Bible Is It?” in 2005.

“Interpreting the Bible and the Constitution” compares the way the church has interpreted the Bible and the Supreme Court the Constitution. “Whose Bible Is It?” examines the evolution of the Bible from oral tradition to the multitude of translations in the contemporary world.

Among scholars, Pelikan is perhaps best known for his “The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine,” a five-volume series. He has also written on such pivotal figures as Soren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche and Johann Sebastian Bach.

His books “Jesus Through the Centuries” and “Mary Through the Centuries” were best-sellers that won Pelikan a popular following among religious readers.

Pelikan was awarded a number of prizes and honorary doctorates and was appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities by President Clinton. He also served as president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was the founding chairman of the Council of Scholars at the Library of Congress.

In 2004, the Library chose him to be the co-recipient, along with French philosopher Paul Ricoeur, of the $1 million Kluge Prize in the Human Sciences.

_ David E. Anderson

Survey: Protestant Pastors, Laity Differ on Spending Priorities

(RNS) A survey of Protestant ministers and churchgoers shows significant differences in the ways the groups would spend an unexpected surge in income in their churches.

The top priority for ministers was to improve church facilities. About half as many laypeople agreed, but they would also want to retire church debt and help the needy.

The studies, conducted by Ellison Research, compared responses to companion surveys of 504 Protestant pastors and 1,184 congregants who attend church at least once per month.

The survey found that 31 percent of pastors would spend a “sudden financial windfall” on buildings or facilities, compared to 17 percent of lay people.

Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, said the differing priorities were a reflection of perspective, with “the typical layperson (having) very little idea of what it takes to run a ministry, and ministers sometimes (losing) sight of what’s important to people in the congregation.”

Published in the May/June edition of Facts & Times, a bimonthly magazine produced by the Southern Baptists’ LifeWay Christian Resources, the study provided options for ministers and churchgoers to select their priorities for spending a sudden swell in the budget.

The choices included spending money on building/expanding/updating facilities, increasing evangelism activities, paying off debt, adding staff members, and increasing social programs, such as for homeless outreach.

Eighteen percent of churchgoers and 12 percent of ministers chose paying off debts as a main concern. Laity and clergy from larger churches were more likely to stress this than those from small or medium-sized churches.

Spending on social programs was a priority for 18 percent of laity but just 6 percent of pastors.

Evangelism was identified as a primary concern for both groups, with 26 percent of clergy and 25 percent of laity saying money should go toward those efforts. However, pastors leaned toward focusing evangelism on the local community (16 percent) over international (7 percent) or domestic programs (3 percent). Laity were equally divided among the three, with 8 percent favoring community evangelism, 8 percent foreign and 9 percent domestic.

Sellers said in a statement that “each group probably needs to understand the priorities of the other group more clearly.”

The survey also concluded that only 1 percent of ministers would raise staff pay or benefits. Sellers noted that “virtually all ministers are thinking first about their church, their community, or the world at large before their own needs.”

The survey carried a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points for clergy and plus or minus 2.7 percentage points for laity.

_ Preetom Bhattacharya

Trucking Ministry Wants to Expand Beyond Truck Stops

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (RNS) A ministry that targets truckers plans to expand outreach beyond truck stops to terminals, where loads are picked up and dropped off.

Transport for Christ International maintains 27 nondenominational chapels in 16 states, four in Canada and three in Moscow. The chapels, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, are built inside 48- and 53-foot trailers at travel plazas along major interstate highways and staffed by full-time and volunteer chaplains.

“The issues drivers face are no respecters of time, place or person,” Scott Weidner, president and chief executive officer of Transport for Christ, said at the organization’s recent annual dinner.

“Imagine it is 3 p.m., and a driver thousands of miles away from home learns of a situation concerning his or her family. The chapel gives the driver a place to go for comfort or guidance.”

Weidner said the ministry’s next step is to build relationships at terminals to address the trend in terminal-to-terminal driving.

Drivers traditionally pick up a load and deliver to a location days or weeks away. Driving terminal to terminal _ the place truckers get their loads _ allows drivers to spend less time on the road.

Terminal chapels would reach more drivers, Weidner said.

“That gets us close to drivers who may not necessarily be on the road overnight,” he said. “And, by having a presence at terminals, we can minister to people who are not drivers.”

Another goal is a ministry in which drivers talk with other drivers at truck and rest stops, telling them where chapels are, Weidner said.

“Our mission is worldwide. We’re looking to expand into Zambia, where we have an affiliation, as well as to establish permanent chapels in Australia.”

_ Gary W. Morrison

Quote of the Day: Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean

(RNS) “The truth is, we have an enormous amount in common with the Christian community, and particularly with the evangelical Christian community. And one of the biggest things that Democrats worry about is the materialism of our country, what’s on television that our kids are seeing, and the lack of spiritualtiy. And that’s something we have in common.”

_ Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, speaking to the Christian Broadcasting Network in early May about Democrats’ relations with evangelicals.


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