Religion News Quick Takes: Amish fakes, ‘honor’ crimes, Ark of Noah, Stephen Colbert, and more

A collection of links and blurbs highlighting religion news, cult stories — and anything else we think you might like.

You may encounter offbeat stories, links to religion-related resources, and a dash or two of personal opinion.

Got any Amish products in your house? Such as furniture, candy, a space heater, or crafts? Are you sure?

Check again. According to a report in the Pitssburgh Post-Gazette most of these goods are not Amish, but have been created without the input or knowledge of genuinely Amish people.

The term ‘Amish’ is being used — almost exclusively by non-Amish — as a marketing tool because customers equate it with good quality, simplicity and sustainability.

Modern-Day Noah Opens Doors Of Ark Creation: Dutch creationist and millionaire building contractor Johan Huibers has built a faithful, true to scale reproduction of Noah’s ark.


Actually, this is Huibers’ second Ark. In 2007 he finished building a half-sized replica on the Biblical boat.

Work started in 2008 and was completed by just five people (only one of whom was a carpenter).

Pastor leaves pulpit, telling congregation he’s gay: The Rev. Brian Ellison, 39, pastor of the Parkville Presbyterian Church in, Missouri, recently revealed to his congregation that he is gay and in a commited relationship. July 15 was Ellison’s last Sunday at the church.

On Aug. 1, Ellison will start his new job as executive director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, a nonprofit advocacy group devoted to the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered members of the denomination.

The organization is host to regional conferences to discuss issues facing gays and lesbians in the church, including ordination and gay marriage. This month, the Presbyterian Church rejected a proposal to amend its constitutional definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Stephen Colbert to star in Catholic comedy slam: The cardinal and the comedian team up for a panel on faith and humor this September at Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y.

The Sept. 14 event, titled “The Cardinal and Colbert: Humor, Joy, and the Spiritual Life,” will be moderated by the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and popular author.

Martin’s recent book, “Between Heaven and Mirth,” explores the relationship between humor and faith, and the priest said that the panel wouldn’t be just a couple of Catholic tummlers yukking it up for the audience – or distracting the public from the many controversial stories about the church.

“This is just what the Catholic Church needs,” said Martin, who has been on “The Colbert Report” so many times that he is called the official chaplain of the Emmy-winning news parody program. “Being joyful does not mean that you overlook suffering or pain or even scandal.”

Speaking of which, Religion News Service says that if there was a potential pitfall for the Dolan-Colbert panel, it might have been that Dolan’s ally, William Donohue of the Catholic League, has for months been campaigning to force Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” star, Jon Stewart, to apologize for a satiric segment last April on the contraception mandate controversy that featured a photo of a manger over a woman’s crotch.

By the way, if you don’t think religion is funny, head on over to the Church Around The Corner, for a collection of real, offbeat religion news stories.

Maria TV in Egypt staffed exclusively by veiled women: The channel’s first broadcast yesterday is one sign of the social change sweeping the country after last year’s uprising, which has resulted in a swing towards more hardline Islamic values, the Daily Mail says.

Previously, even though Egypt was already a conservative and predominantly Muslim society, women covering their face with a niqab veil complained of being routinely discriminated against for jobs, especially on TV, as well as in education.

The channel will be broadcast for six hours a day on al-Ummah channel, a religious station run by ultra-orthodox Salafi Islamists.

Muslim grandmother jailed for honor crimes against daughter: A devout Muslim grandmother has been jailed for kidnapping and drugging her own daughter who fled the family home to avoid an arranged marriage.

Shamim Akhtar, 59, was found guilty of false imprisonment, kidnap and two counts of administering a drug with intent to commit an indictable offence. She was handed a four year sentence after a
month long trial that also saw her brother Shamrez Khan, 34, and in-law Zahid Mahmoud, 37, locked up for eight years.

In a February 2002 article for National Geographic News, Hillary Mayell wrote

Widney Brown, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, has said that honor killing “goes across cultures and across religions.”

Complicity by other women in the family and the community strengthens the concept of women as property and the perception that violence against family members is a family and not a judicial issue.

“Females in the family—mothers, mothers-in-law, sisters, and cousins—frequently support the attacks. It’s a community mentality,” said Zaynab Nawaz, a program assistant for women’s human rights at Amnesty International.

Honor killings: When the ancient and the modern collide
‘Honour’ crimes against women in UK rising rapidly, figures show
‘Honour’ crimes are domestic abuse, plain and simple
‘Honour’-based violence runs deep and wide

Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University, recently visited Amsterdam to attend the International meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature.

He ends his blog post about the conference by relating a scary experience:

In other European news, the wave of Islamic terror and intimidation continues unabated. In my case, it took the form of my standing innocently in a crowded Amsterdam tram when a young Middle Eastern man uttered the terrifying statement “Oh sir, please take my seat,” as if I was some kind of old person. If their goal is to destroy the morale of the white race, they are succeeding.

By the way, Jenkins’ latest book is Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses [Kindle Edition]: Commands to kill, to commit ethnic cleansing, to institutionalize segregation, to hate and fear other races and religions—all are in the Bible, and all occur with a far greater frequency than in the Qur’an. But fanaticism is no more hard-wired in Christianity than it is in Islam. In Laying Down the Sword, “one of America’s best scholars of religion” (The Economist) explores how religions grow past their bloody origins, and delivers a fearless examination of the most violent verses of the Bible and an urgent call to read them anew in pursuit of a richer, more genuine faith.

Vietnam upholds 11-year sentence against pastor of banned Mennonite church for sowing division: Authorities say he gave interviews to foreign media and posted articles online that distorted the country’s religious and human rights situations.

The 43-year-old Nguyen Cong Chinh was convicted of undermining the government policy of unity at a trial in March. He appealed the sentence.

Escape: My Lifelong War Against Cults. From the book description:

The snake stuffed in attorney Paul Morantz‘s mailbox by acolytes of Synanon, a once-hailed drug rehabilitation center that had devolved into a paranoid, militaristic cult, was an early strike in what would become a 35-year war with nearly every major cult movement this country has ever known.

Mr. Morantz has been involved under frequently bizarre circumstances–with such infamous sects as the Charles Manson family, Patty Hearst and the SLA, Jim Jones and the People’s Temple, the Moonies and the strange world of Scientology. His efforts have helped many escape from lives of torment and contributed to a sea change in how courts deal with the little-understood issues of brainwashing and cults.

Now, in this important and compelling book, Mr. Morantz offers a comprehensive account of the origins and activities of cults and how they prey on society s most vulnerable elements. It also recounts the very intimate tale of how these confrontations with threatening and often, violent forces cost him the woman he loved and nearly, life itself.

Pastor gets 27 months in prison:

Robert J. Freeman, a charismatic Southern Maryland pastor and longtime televangelist, drove fancy cars and lived in a $1.75 million home on the Potomac River that has five fireplaces, a jet-ski lift and two four-car garages.

To finance that lifestyle, federal prosecutors said, Freeman turned to his followers to purchase the vehicles and waterfront property. Many, it turned out, could not afford it.

On Monday, Freeman, 56, who headed Save the Seed ministry in Waldorf, was sentenced to more than two years in prison in a related bankruptcy case. Prosecutors said he hid church assets to avoid paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts.

Freeman is also known as ‘Dr. Shine’:

Quick Links

Global travel industry gears up for Muslim tourist boom: Spending by Muslim tourists is growing faster than the global rate and is forecast to reach $192 billion a year by 2020, up from $126 billion in 2011, according to a study by two companies specialising in the market.

Hoard of Crusader Gold Found in Ruins: A team of researchers from Tel Aviv University has uncovered a hoard of real-life buried treasure at the Crusader castle of Arsur (also known as Apollonia), a stronghold located between the ancient ports of Jaffa and Caesarea, in use from 1241 to its destruction in 1265.

Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo cult never really died: According to reports, the Aum Shinrikyo once had more than 10,000 followers in its prime. Analysts point out that the new followers are young people who do not know much about Aum Shinrikyo. The cult recruiters also skilfully lure the vulnerable young into free fun events, meditation or yoga activities, often via social networking.

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This post was last updated: May. 9, 2014