Bob Smietana is a veteran religion writer and editor-in-chief of Religion News Service.
Feds offer atheists a clergy tax break that they don’t want
(RNS) “We are not a church,” atheists say. Government lawyers disagree, saying atheist leaders can be considered ministers.
Is God an angry ogre? Presbyterians and Baptists debate
(RNS) A dispute over a hymn has Presbyterians and Baptists tussling over the Christian doctrines of the atonement, which explain why Jesus died and whether his death satisfies God’s wrath over humankind’s sinfulness.
A reality TV show about snake handlers to debut in September
(RNS) The series will feature scenes from church services where worshipers handle snakes, as well as the day-to-day struggle to live out their faith.
ACLU says magistrate can’t order ‘Messiah’ name change
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) “In this case, the judge is creating a culture where she is imposing her religious beliefs on others,” said Hedy Weinberg of the Tennessee ACLU. “And that is unacceptable.”
Presbyterians stir debate by rejecting popular new hymn
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) Critics say the move to drop the popular hymn “In Christ Alone” from a new Presbyterian hymnal was sparked by liberals wanting to take God’s wrath out of the hymnal. The committee says there’s plenty of wrath in the new hymnal.
Reza Aslan defends controversial new book on Jesus
(RNS) Reza Aslan’s controversial new book about Jesus is about to make him a best-selling author. “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” has already reached No. 1 on Amazon.com. But critics say Aslan has simply created his own version of Jesus.
The evolution of Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore
(RNS) Russell Moore is conservative but not angry. He’s skeptical about politics, and believes that kindness is not a weakness. He’s also critical of Bible Belt faith, which he says sees Christianity as a normal part of American life.
Tweet your way out of purgatory (but there’s work involved)
(RNS) Pope Francis plans to grant plenary indulgences by Twitter during the World Youth Day, which will be held July 23-28 in Brazil. But to get an indulgence, Catholics must have already had their sins absolved by a priest.
Young Muslim musicians marry faith, hip-hop, rock ‘n’ roll
(RNS) A group of young Muslim musicians arre combining hip-hop, country and pop music with an old Islamic song genre known as a “nasheed.”
Churches move to cut ties to Scouts after gay policy change
The Southern Baptist Convention, whose 3,981 Scout troops make it the BSA’s sixth-largest religious sponsor, plans to address the issue at its annual meeting in Houston, June 11-12.
Church leaders tackle the stigma of mental illness
(RNS) For years, Southern Baptist leader Frank Page did not share the painful details of his daughter’s suicide, fearing that some Christians might speak ill of her if they knew. Mental illness and suicide were taboo topics for many churches, seen as a kind of spiritual failure. That may be starting to change.
Catholic hospital under fire for saying fetuses aren’t ‘people’
(RNS) A Catholic hospital in Colorado has argued in court documents that it is not liable for the deaths of two 7-month-old fetuses because those fetuses are not people.
Pastor who pushes corporal punishment accused of abuse
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) A pastor known for promoting corporal punishment has been accused of physically abusing a woman for 25 years, beginning during her childhood. By Bob Smietana / USA Today.