As many of you know by now, I’ve recently started a new job, which cuts back on the number of links I can collect for these roundups. But here’s what we’ve been covering over at the faithforward news desk in the last week or so:

Religion & Politics

  • RNR roaming correspondant and in-house vampire expert Carnacki examines an aspect of the “Ten Commandments” debate.

  • DNC Chair Answers Democrats
    From TalkingDonkeys:

    DNC Chairmain Dean directly answered questions to democrats, here was his answer to mine:

    “You mentioned — and I applaud — the importance of religious outreach by the Democratic party. My question: how you plan to do this outreach, and how can this outreach extend to a distributed grassroots of religious people?
    Tim C. Culver City, CA

    Yes, we plan to reach out to religious groups — first by acknowledging their relevance and importance. And, second of all — pointing out the hypocrisy of Republicans when they talk about moral values.

    We should learn how to talk about moral values. After all, If this election had been decided on moral values, Democrats would have won. It is a moral value to provide health care. It is a moral value to educate our young people. The sense of community that comes from full participation in our democracy is a moral value. It is a moral value to make sure that we do not leave our own debts to be paid by the next generation. Honesty is a moral value.”

    We do notice that Dean doesn’t actually answer the question–how can this be a grassroots project–but perhaps it’s unreasonable to ask that he be conversant with, and willing to divulge, all manner of strategy.

    And perhaps this needs to be the grassroot’s project anyway.

  • The “Faith Agenda,”

    One state lawmaker who says he promotes Christianity whenever he gets the chance wants to bring elective Bible courses into the public schools.

    Another seeks special prison dorms that immerse inmates in Bible study and Christian counseling.

    And a third says an “In God We Trust” license plate would serve as a good reminder of “what separates us from the animals.”

    Important stuff, all.

  • Britain…
    dips a toe into American-style faith-based politics:

    Tony Blair is to woo evangelical Christians ahead of the general election as rival faith groups play an increasingly significant part in campaigning strategy.

    The prime minister will address 200 members of the Christian Faithworks group next week in a lecture on how the church can create “a more trusting society”.

    The move towards targeting individual faiths as part of the run-up to the likely May polling day comes after Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, made abortion an election issue for the first time in British politics at the weekend, when he stated that he favoured reducing the time limit for terminations to 20 weeks. Today a Roman Catholic archbishop endorsed Mr Howard’s stance.

  • The Law of Unintended Consequences
    Christianity Today reports that missionaries abroad are “pinched” as the US dollar declines against foreign currency:

    Missionaries in Europe, parts of Africa, and the Middle East are spending their dollars faster than ever. As the dollar declines relative to foreign currencies, many overseas missionaries are finding their buck doesn’t go so far as it used to. Many have had to cut back on spending or even return to the U.S. to fundraise. Mission agencies are also finding they need to spend more money to maintain their overseas operations.

    “The decline in the dollar is affecting our international development programs, in some cases quite dramatically,” says David van Vuuren, vice president of international operations at World Relief.

    Missionaries are “finding out that to have [what used to be] $60,000 buying power is costing them $80,000,” LeRoy says. Missionaries have to make difficult choices when they find they don’t have enough money to stay in a country. “We try to get them to be in contact with their donor churches to see if they can increase the amount of money that they’re giving. In some cases, if it cannot be done by telephone or email or letter writing, they have to return home.” Sometimes, one member of the family will return to raise money, while the rest stay in the field.

    Though the most significant decline affects Europe, the dollar has fallen against other currencies as well, says World Relief’s van Vuuren. “In Mozambique-a country that has its economy linked almost directly to the South African rand currency-operations funded by our US dollars are caught in a pincer of the declining buying power internationally of the U.S. dollar and the appreciating South African rand.”

    The dollar is declining for many reasons, but prominent among them is the Bush administration’s deficit spending. As currency traders lose confidence in our government’s ability to pay back the loans it receives through Treasury bills, they move their investments into other currencies. It’ll be interesting to see if conservative evangelicals connect the dots on this one.

    On another note, it’s interesting to see that evangelical denominations have the same missionary issues as the former mainline churches. The dollar falls on the just and the unjust, we guess.

  • Ugh: Former Sen. Miller tells Liberty students to hold on to religion

    The Democrat who fired up Republicans as the keynote speaker during their national convention told Liberty University students Wednesday it was his change in religion, not politics, that had impacted his life the most.

    But in a nearly half-hour speech at Liberty he told students it was his change from a “Sunday-morning Christian” to what he called a more spiritual life that had really changed his life.

    In February 2003 Miller’s son, Matt, lost sight in both eyes due to complications from diabetes. At the same time, Matt’s wife became so ill she spent 77 days in intensive care.

    “Our whole world came crashing in,” said Miller, 73, who told students he then turned to his long-neglected faith to help him cope. “This experience with my family drove me to my knees.”

    A series of operations helped restore some of Matt’s vision.

    “Matt was blind and now he can see, and Zell was blind and now he can see much more clearly that ever before,” Miller said. “The Sunday-morning Christian is no more.”

    The Rev. Jerry Falwell sat behind Miller during his address. It was one of the few times Liberty’s chancellor has been out of the house since being released from the hospital last week after suffering pneumonia.

    “The world is glad to have him back,” Miller said of Falwell’s recovery.

    Well, it’s an explanation, anyway.

Church & Homosexuality

  • Stay tuned to faithforward…
    For all your cartoon news needs.

    From Beliefnet:

    New York, March 10 – A children’s music video that conservatives charge is part of an effort to encourage acceptance of homosexuality is being distributed to more than 60,000 schools nationwide, producers said Thursday.

    The video features about 100 children’s TV characters including SpongeBob SquarePants, Miss Piggy and Oscar the Grouch singing the 1979 disco hit “We Are Family.” It will be accompanied by a teaching guide that promotes tolerance of diversity.

    And a smaller distribution effort from Daily Kos’ Renee in Ohio:

    Remember that PBS “Postcards from Buster” episode that Bush’s new Secretary of Education deemed inappropriate for public television because it included a family with two moms? There’s an article in today’s Washington Post about families getting together at Church of the Pilgrims Presbyterian in D.C. to view the episode.

    In response, the American Family Association and Focus on the Family considered a joint release of a Pres. Bush animated series, but had to scrap those plans upon realizing that Bush is already a cartoon character.*

    *This is of course a lie.

  • Bigots:
    Protestors rally outside church holding AIDS seminar in Owensboro, Kentucky:

    About a dozen people gathered outside the Cedar Street Missionary Baptist Church in Owensboro on Sunday, where The Annual Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS took place. They carried signs that read “No mercy in hell,” and “No civil rights for sodomites.”

    The worship service offered HIV testing at the end of the program. Cedar Street Missionary Baptist Church did not sponsor the event but offered the use of its building.

    “You cannot help (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS) with medicine,” argued the Rev. Jack Oliver, who led the protest outside. “You must stop sodomy.”

    Correct us if we’re wrong, but aren’t the primary sources of AIDS transmission these days IV drug use and heterosexual intercourse?

  • Hallelujah!
    The AP:

    A judge ruled Monday that California’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, saying the state could no longer justify limiting marriage to a man and a woman.

    In the eagerly awaited opinion likely to be appealed to the state’s highest court, San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer said that withholding marriage licenses from gays and lesbians is unconstitutional.

    “It appears that no rational purpose exists for limiting marriage in this state to opposite-sex partners,” Kramer wrote.

    Can’t quite believe this is the end of the story. But hey, take what you can get…

  • Another starting point…
    for the conversation on homosexuality and Christian faith:

    Matthew 20:1-16
    The Lord said this parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or is your eye evil because I am good? ‘ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen.”

    This is a story about God’s sovereign grace, given out to whom God pleases for reasons that seem at best unfathomable and at worse perverse. Who are we to throw an evil eye because God is good?

Speaking Out

  • Living Wage
    Think Progress has this in an e-mail:

    Over 80% of Americans support a raise in the minimum wage, and only 6% oppose it. Its purchasing power has fallen every year since 1997, and it is worth less today than it has been worth in all but two of the last 48 years.

    And yet, yesterday the Senate rejected two proposals to raise the minimum wage (which is a ghastly $5.15 an hour and has not been raised since 1996). By this point an increase is so overdue it hardly seems worth fighting over raising wages a dollar – which is why some people have turned to working for a living wage.

    And Deuteronomy tells us: “You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy labourers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt.”

  • Peace Churches Concerned About ‘Back Door’ Draft Among Poor, Minorities
    — A coalition of historic ‘peace churches’ says they were told that the Pentagon does not plan to reinstate a military draft, but they remain concerned about a ‘back door draft’ that targets the poor and minorities.

    Leaders of a dozen Mennonite, Quaker and Brethren churches that shun military service held a two-day meeting (March 4-5) outside Chicago to plan for ‘alternative service’ programs for conscientious objectors should a draft be reinstated.

  • Mississippi Prophets
    Fellow dKosmonkey Mitch Cohen publishes this editorial in NE Mississippi:

    This past week, leaders of five mainstream Protestant denominations came together to speak in one voice. Standing shoulder to shoulder, leaders of the Episcopal Church USA, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, and United Methodist Church together condemned the 2006 Federal budget proposed by President Bush as unjust by biblical standards. They couldn’t be more correct.

    “The 2006 Federal Budget that President Bush has sent to Capitol Hill is unjust,” they said. “It has much for the rich man and little for Lazarus,” harkening to Jesus’ parable of the beggar Lazarus at the gate of an anonymous rich man. Lazarus, you’ll recall, finds his reward at the side of Abraham in heaven when he dies, while the rich man burns in hell.

    It’s a grand and ancient tradition. The biblical prophets would be on the White House lawn, the steps of the Capitol, in the chambers of Congress, the Law in one hand, a fistful of indignation in the other, condemning the outright aggression of this administration against the poor.

    Mississippi: too liberal for mainstream America.

    (Congrats, Mitch)

UCC News

  • Obscure Radio Story
    From an insider radio journal:

    A group of organizations have asked the FCC for a complete freeze of all low power FM applications because they “have discovered evidence of a massive trafficking scheme” involving translator licenses to religious oraganizations. Included in the group asking for the freeze on granting licenses are the Prometheus Radio Project of Philadelphia, United Church Of Christ, National Federation Of Community Broadcasters, Future Of Music Coalition, Free Press, and National Lawyers Guild, among others.

    In the filing, the groups accuse three individuals — Clarke Parrish, Earl Williamson and Dana Atkin — of using “two dummy corporations” to apply for over 4,000 translator licenses and then using loopholes to sell the licenses to religious broadcasters who, in turn, pipe in satellite programming, which is an obvious contradiction to the spirit of localism behind the granting of LPFM licenses.

    The UCC is behind this because of a long-standing commitment to public ownership of the airwaves. More recently, in 1999 and 2000, it encouraged community groups to develop low-power radio as a form of alternative broadcasting, only to see the FCC kill the pilot program with a thousand pinpricks after corporate giants weighed in with their fears of competition. Not surprisingly, they feel a bit burned, especially in light of these developments.

    This is a development worth watching.

  • They’ve Noticed
    The UCC Blogads are starting to get noticed.

    Early reviews aren’t so hot.


    Christ didn’t exactly get raves on opening night, either.

This ‘n’ That

  • Vatican lets excommunication order stand
    The Montana Standard :

    The Vatican has let stand a 1996 order from Lincoln Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz that his parishioners must sever ties with 12 groups or face possible excommunication, the Lincoln Diocese said.

    Among the groups are the lay reform organization Call to Action, abortion-rights advocates Planned Parenthood and Catholics for a Free Choice, and several Masonic organizations. Bruskewitz said the groups contradict Roman Catholic teaching.”

    It’s the bishop’s right, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. Nor does it mean that we have to think it’s appropriate theology. Communion draws the body together; it should not be used to split it.

  • Something to think about
    “It’s like saying Ann Coulter lives in New York City, thus [New York City] produces right-wing lunatics.”

    The rest of the debate (with Peter Beinart) is a write-off. Why does anyone bother taking this blonde whackjob seriously?

  • They get tattoos…er, as well
    Church Will Pay Fine Rather Than Obey Law

  • Some Headlines we just couldn’t resist:
    UCC’s Fine Sweets and Some Dessert Discoveries, from the Manila Bulletin. No cookies listed, sadly.

    UCC’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ production tackles challenge

    Bishop O’Reilly holds off Faith Christian Some tough Bishop, that one.

  • Disney pursues Christian market
    They’re gearing up to promote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe through Christian groups:

    Disney executives have organised private meetings with several church groups in the US to emphasise the themes of Christian redemption and sacrifice contained in the film, which will open in December with an all-star cast.

    They have also hired a public relations company to market the film directly to Christian groups to ensure that the powerful evangelical movement is happy with the content.

    [H]arnessing the support of Christian groups is regarded by Hollywood as an important means of securing box-office success.

    The Passion of the Christ has taken more than $US600 million at the box office since its release last year, principally because of the large number of Christians who went to see the film. Similarly, the animated adventure The Polar Express, which received poor reviews, became a hit after producers emphasised its Christian credentials.

    In an effort to ensure the Narnia film reaches a similar audience, Disney has hired Motive Marketing, a public relations company that specialises in reaching out to faith groups and was widely credited with the success of The Passion of the Christ.

    If we’re not mistaken, this is a co-production with reclusive billionaire and “family values” activist Philip Anschutz’s Walden Media.

    On the other hand, the Narnia books were some of our favorites growing up, so we’ll suspend judgment until we actually see the flick.

  • Wow
    Somebody’s crazy. I ain’t saying who:

    “Did al-Qaida plot ‘cultural destabilization’?
    Actor Russell Crowe says Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terror network wanted to kidnap him as part of a ‘cultural destabilization plot,’ according to an Australian magazine. In the March edition of Australia’s GQ magazine, Crowe says FBI agents told him of the threat in 2001, in the months before he won a best actor Oscar for his role as Maximus in ‘Gladiator.’ ‘That was the first (time) I’d ever heard the phrase ‘al-Qaida,” Crowe said. ‘It was about – and here’s another little touch of irony – taking iconographic Americans out of the picture as sort of a cultural destabilization plot.’ “

    And just one more:

  • Why We Like the Guardian
    Among other things, it has some of the best and most compassionate reporting on mental health issues–and the faces behind the issues.

    See, for example, this article on a boy born with Down’s Syndrome, and this one on addressing social exclusion by taking recovering addicts, some with MI problems to the Royal Opera House:

    Sadly, after the interval Kearns’ and Tracey’s seats are empty. “Not everyone is going to enjoy it,” Baden says.

    Later on, Kearns says he had a migraine. “Where I come from, there was no such thing as compassion,” he says. “If I’d stayed in there I’d have started crying (with emotion) and they’d have had to carry me out.”

All this is of course in addition to our usual round of sermons, prayers, and more snark than you can shake a stick at.

For Wednesday, March 16th, that’s your Religious News Roundup. I’m Walter Cronkite pastordan. Goodnight.

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