Religion News Blog Roundup for Jan. 31, 2008

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“RNB Roundup” is a collection of clippings, snippets, links, commentary and other items that, in one way or another, relate to the topics normally covered in Religion News Blog.

Note: This page may grow throughout the day… Too, linked items may be online for a limited time only. Get them while they’re hot.


Kenneth Copeland

Will the ‘godfather of the Prosperity Gospel’ pray for you?
Kenneth Copeland is one of the televangelists whose financial dealings are under investigation by Senator Grassley.
CBS News took a look at Copeland’s luxurious lifestyle, and in the process discovered what happened to your prayer requests — which usually accompanied by financial donations from people who believe in the prosperity scam:

Copeland has made it clear to his followers and a certain U.S. Senator named Grassley that all this prosperity – and much, much more – is a by-the-book, tax-exempt blessing from God.

And then there are people like the former ministry employee who told me they lost their faith in Copeland after working inside the mail department, sitting hours on end in front of a computer reading letters from “Partners,” processing as many as 500 prayer requests a day.

“It’s all pre-programmed choices that I had on my computer,” the ex-employee told me. “When someone wanted a prayer for their mother’s arthritis, I could make the choice – mother and arthritis. And when the letter would go to where it was generated … the computer knew where to put, ‘We’re praying for your mother’s arthritis.’”

Only, the former employee says, that prayer was never uttered by Kenneth Copeland. Not one time. At least not in their presence: “Kenneth Copeland never sees a letter. He doesn’t know what these people think of him. People write letters and they write as if he’s their best friend. He never sees any of those letters.”

Instead, the thousands of pieces of mail that pour into the ministry every week, often accompanied by cash, money orders, stamps, checks, are brought into a vault area in tray upon tray and prayed over for a moment or two (“Thank you for these partners and, please, God, fill their needs”) by low-level employees.

“It’s a cold sophisticated system,” said the former employee. “And it became very impersonal.”


Islam

Afghan upper house backs journalist death sentence
When Muslim extremists in Western countries are clamoring for Sharia law, this is the kind of situation they look forward to:

Afghanistan’s upper house of parliament has backed a death sentence issued against a reporter accused of blasphemy, one of the members said on Wednesday.

The United States and U.N. right groups have expressed concern over the case of Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, sentenced to death by a court last week for allegedly mocking Islam and the Koran, and for distributing an article which said the Prophet Mohammad had ignored the rights of women.
[…]

The House of Elders also strongly criticised the international community for putting pressure on the Afghan government and judiciary over the case, the delegates said.
Reuters

The Reuters blog provides background to that item

Catholic Church

Vast archive on abuse aids victims, scholars

In a drab office building on Main Street, Terry McKiernan and Anne Barrett Doyle are quietly amassing a vast archive of abuse: thousands and thousands of documents chronicling the sprawling crisis that has confronted the Catholic Church.
[…]

Atop a bookcase sits a valise sent by a victim from West Roxbury, crammed with news clippings, church bulletins, the victim’s mother’s handwritten notes on conversations with church officials, and a letter the victim wrote the pope, never acknowledged.

A closet-sized room is lined with file cabinets, filled with 100 boxfuls of papers donated by a Texas lawyer who painstakingly amassed a database of 3,000 Catholic priests nationwide accused of abuse.

In other corners of the office are binders filled with copies of court filings, boxes packed with papers donated by lawyers and scholars, survivors and their families, and a century’s worth of the Official Catholic Directory, which annually lists the name of every active priest in the country and his parish assignment, purchased one by one on eBay.

This is the headquarters of bishopaccountability.org, a fast-growing website that is fashioning itself as a kind of cross between The Smoking Gun and an academic archive, aiming to be the first place to post the most sought-after new documents, as well as a repository of records for historical purposes. The site now has 93,000 files on the Internet and 647,000 paper files, and the collection is growing.

The site has become a resource for journalists, academics, and filmmakers interested in the abuse crisis and a key source of information for abuse victims and their families who are seeking more information about their abusers and church officials.
More at the Boston Globe

Naked Man Ad Riles Massachusetts Catholics

A fitness club ad running in Boston magazine that depicts nuns sketching a naked man has triggered protests among some members of the Bay State’s Catholic community, WCVB-TV in Boston reported.

The ad for the Equinox Fitness Club is running in this month’s issue, and two Catholic organizations blasted the photo Tuesday, the Boston Herald reported, saying the Catholic League, the Archdiocese of Boston and the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts all decried the ad as offensive.
[…]

The fitness company responded with a written statement saying, “Our ad campaigns are based on personal motivation and fantasy, and throughout history, the body has been considered a form of art.”
Source


The Church Around The Corner

Archbishop of Canterbury calls for new law to punish ‘thoughtless or cruel’ words
The Anglican Church — often referred to as the Church of England, because the roots of the Anglican Communion are in the British Isles — is today’s ‘Church Around The Corner’.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has called for new laws to protect religious sensibilities that would punish “thoughtless and cruel” styles of speaking.

Dr Williams, who has seen his own Anglican Communion riven by fierce invective over homosexuality, said the current blasphemy law was “unworkable” and he had no objection to its repeal.

But whatever replaces it should “send a signal” about what was acceptable.
[…]

In 2006, Parliament passed the Racial and Religious Hatred Act, which creates an offence of inciting or “stirring up” hatred against a person on the grounds of their religion. But the act was so watered down during its passage through Parliament that its critics fear it will be almost useless.
[…]

Dr Williams was criticised by the National Secular Society who accused him of promoting “self-serving and dangerous” ideas.

Terry Sanderson, president, said that the Archbishop’s speech was a “blatant pitch for new legislation to replace the blasphemy laws that the Government are planning to scrap.”

The Government is at present consulting the Church of England about its plans to repeal the blasphemy laws before introducing the changes when the Criminal Justice Bill is in committee stage in a few weeks.
More in The Times

Come to think of it, we have heard many examples of ‘thoughtless and cruel styles of speaking’ — in various churches.

The Bible

The Bible Experience — Behind the Scenes.
From thoughtless words to inspired ones…
This is the behind-the-scenes video of the making of Inspired by… The Bible Experience, a fully-dramatized and symphonic-orchestrated reading of the entire Bible performed by an unprecedented ensemble of over 200 distinguished African-American actors, musicians, and clergy — including Denzel Washington, Blair Underwood, Angela Bassett, Juanita Bynum, Shirley Caesar, Samuel L. Jackson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Kirk Franklin, and many more.
We bet you haven’t heard the words of the Bible like this before!

The Bible Experience (CD)
The Bible Experience (MP3)


Quick Links

Religion Clause Excellent blog by Howard M. Friedman, Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Toledo

All Things Political: What Christians do, do not do, do well, or do badly That’s one of many MP3s at Apologetics.com

Paskewich.com A spiritual slant on everyday conversations


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This post was last updated: Jan. 31, 2008