The big news for much of the world is that the trailer for the movie version of “Fifty Shades of Grey” is finally out. The better news: Our Own Laura Turner tells us everything you need to know about the movie’s message for churches — so I don’t have to.
My literary preference: this novel book called The Bible
It’s the brainchild of graphic artist and book designer Adam Lewis Greene and it’s a project to make the Bible read like a novel by taking out all those annoying chapter and verse markings. It’s a Kickstarter sensation — but will it work? Will people finally read the Good Book, and will it make any more or less sense to them than it has? Also, does this mean the end of Bible verse memorization contests at Sunday School?! On the plus side, there’s plenty of sex …
Female genital mutilation order by ISIS may be a hoax, but …
Reports that the radical Islamists taking over large swaths of Iraq ordered all women ages 11-46 to undergo ritual female circumcision are apparently false. Which doesn’t mean they’re about to join the local Chamber of Commerce and receive a Good Governance Award. ISIS has issued an order forcing all women to wear full veils or face harsh punishment.
“This is not a restriction on her freedom but to prevent her from falling into humiliation and vulgarity or to be a theater for the eyes of those who are looking,” said the Islamic State in a statement.
Meanwhile, the ISIS (or IS) forces aren’t just mowing down people, they’re also destroying anything related to religious traditions they don’t like, be they Christian, Jewish or Muslim. “Basically pretty much anything in the Bible,” Sam Hardy, a professor at the American University of Rome and author of the blog Conflict Antiquities, told The Washington Post.
NYT reporter calls for “ruthless” campaign against anti-LGBT sentiment
This tweet by Josh Barro isn’t the sort of thing that reporters are supposed to do, in my experience, but I guess I’m old-fashioned — and hopefully a bit more tolerant:
At least he didn’t call for the expulsion of his foes. Right? Waiting to see what the paper’s Public Editor says, but in the meantime the Gray Lady has lost Rod Dreher.
A Southern Baptist agency goes all in for “N”
The SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has changed its Twitter avatar (above) to incorporate the Arabic letter “N,” for the word Nasrani, or Nazarene, which ISIS militants were spray painting on Christians homes to mark them for expulsion or worse. The Arabic letter is now being used as a sign of solidarity with Iraqi Christians by many in the West.
The Washington Post has a casualty counter for the Gaza conflict
It’s a sobering, to say the least, graphic that is updated daily. The latest death toll stands at 825, and rising.
A more edifying graphic: a Guide to Church Usher Hand Signals
The NYT’s resident Op-Artist, Ben Schott, has the coolest depiction of the “National Silent Uniform System,” developed in the 1940s to allow church ushers to communicate around the sanctuary without disturbing the service. Your daily must-read.
UPDATE: Forgot to include the link, which is embedded now. Mea culpa! (Sign for that is striking my breast three times, FYI)
Solomon’s Temple in Sao Paulo
Not sure what system they use at the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, but the New York Times also has a great story about this remarkable 10,000-seat evangelical church in Brazil that sounds like the World Cup of churches: it took four years to build at a cost of $300 million in a city marked by slums and poverty.
A helicopter landing pad will allow Edir Macedo, the 69-year-old media magnate who founded the Universal Church in a Rio de Janeiro funeral home in 1977, to drop in for sermons. The sprawling 11-story complex features other flourishes, too, like an oasis of olive trees similar to the garden of Gethsemane near Jerusalem, and more than 30 columns soaring toward the heavens.
You want fries with that?
Look what NYT reporter Kim Severson found at a McDonald’s in Gaffney, South Carolina:
Never stop being you, Bible Belt.
A lion in summer
The NY Times, which is really rocking it in this roundup, in many ways, also has a front page profile of former King’s College president and conservative firebrand Dinesh D’Souza. Despite a sex scandal that led to his dismissal from the evangelical school in Lower Manhattan and the prospect of a prison term for violating campaign finance laws, D’Souza remains the darling of conservative media. Go figure.
Does Ramadan hurt the economy?
NPR’s Shankar Vedantam asks whether religious practices like all-day fasting negatively affects economic activity. Listen here.
Pope Francis is a cafeteria Catholic …
At least at the Vatican cafeteria, where he lunched today with the rest of the gang — and of course ate fish:
TT @oss_romano: #PopeFrancis having lunch in Vatican cafeteria with Vatican workers pic.twitter.com/RXvMwiDhXM
— Catholic News Service (@CatholicNewsSvc) July 25, 2014
The pontiff also met with Meriam Ibrahim yesterday, the Christian woman spared a death sentence for apostasy in Sudan.
Is the “Francis Effect” spurring a Catholic media war?
First, America — a U.S. weekly magazine operated by the pontiff’s own Jesuit order — announced that it was hiring correspondents in Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and Beijing in the “the most dramatic expansion of America’s domestic and international coverage in 30 years.” More hires to come in August, says editor Matt Malone, SJ.
Now the Catholic media conglomerate EWTN announces that it is building its first West Coast television production facility in the Catholic Church building formerly known as Crystal Cathedral, home to Robert Schuller’s “Hour of Power.”
So is the future of media in the Catholic Church? Watch out, Rupert Murdoch.
And finally, this sobering tweet:
How did that happen?
Anyway, we at RNS will keep plugging away, so stay tuned to this page for updates throughout the day.