Religion News Archive

You'll find articles about this subject in each of the items listed, even if the term does not necessarily occur within the headlines or descriptive text.

Religion News You Might Have Missed This Week

Here’s our roundup of religion news items — some serious, some less so — that crossed our desks during the past week:

bullet The Obamacare ‘coverage gap’ is a political issue: come January, millions of poor Americans won’t get health insurance because their states refused to accept Obamacare

But there is also a religious angle.

The vast majority of people who fall into the coverage gap live in the Bible Belt.

And yet, as CNN points out, most mega-church celebrity pastors throughout the 14 Bible Belt states keep silent on the issue.

Why won’t these pastors — many of them far richer than you and me together — speak up for the poor?

bullet Evangelist Billy Graham celebrated his 95th birthday last Thursday, among some 900 guests.

In frail health, he delivered, by means of a video recorded over the past year, what his son Franklin Graham characterized as his father’s final message to the nation:

“Our country’s in great need of a spiritual awakening,” he declared. “There have been times that I’ve wept as I’ve gone from city to city and I’ve seen how far people have wandered from God.”
Whether you’re a Christian or not, and regardless of how you view Billy Graham, it is worth a half hour of your time to watch this video:

bullet Methodist Reverend Frank Schaefer is facing a church trial for officiating his gay son’s 2007 wedding in Massachusetts.

The United Methodist Church — America’s largest mainline Protestant denomination — accepts gay and lesbian members but rejects homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Clergy who flaunt the denomination’s laws against performing same-sex unions risk punishment ranging from a reprimand to suspension to defrocking.

Schaefer could have avoided a trial if he had agreed to never again perform a same-gender wedding, but because three of his four children are gay he refuses to make that promise.

bullet Canadian Christian rocker Marc Martel, who founded and then led Christian rock bank Downhere through 10 albums, is often told that he sounds just like Freddie Mercury, legendary singer of the rock band Queen.

So in 2011 he entered the Queen Extravaganza contest with this video — which earned him a spot on the 2012 tour:

Queen Extravaganza is the official tribute show, produced by former Queen drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May.

And yes, Martel is working on a solo album.

bullet Pope Francis tweets in eight languages, of which the Latin feed is the most popular.

Even so the president of the Vatican’s Latin Academy, Ivano Dionigi, says the church still does not have an official way of saying “Twitter” in Latin.

Oh, and if you’re a Catholic blogger who had hoped to get a .catholic domain name, you’re out of luck. The Vatican says the designation will be reserved for church-related organizations, not individuals.

bullet Pastor Andrew Hamblin regularly picks up snakes with his bare hands at the Tabernacle Church of God in LaFollete, Tennessee.

Snake handlers believe that picking up snakes is one way of demonstrating their faith in God, and point to this Bible verse as justification for handling snakes:

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.Mark 16:17-18

Hamblin and others like him see snake handling as an expression of their religious freedom.

But in many areas the practice is illegal, and this week Tennessee’s Wildlife Resources Agency seized 53 venomous snakes from Hamlin. The agency says Hamblin would have needed a special license, as well as training, to be able to house and handle the snakes.

Meanwhile, — in an article on what the Bible says about snake handling — says:

If the snake-handling churches were consistent, they would also follow the second part of Mark 16:18: “…and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all.” […]

First Corinthians 10:9, while not speaking directly of snake handling in churches, says it best: “We should not test the Lord, as some of them did — and were killed by snakes.”

bullet Amy Davidson asks, How strong is Pope Francis? She is referring to the pope’s compassionate embrace of a man who suffers from neurofibromatosis.

bullet George Bush (yes, the one associated with illegal warfare, torture, Guantanamo Bay and other human rights violations) next week

will deliver the keynote address at a fundraising event for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute (MBJI), a global organisation that trains its members to convert Jews to Christianity, in the hope of bringing about the Second Coming of Christ.

Read up on Messianic Judaism

bullet Do you want more religion news without being overwhelmed with a Tsunami of information? Follow our popular Twitter feed:

Hijab Outcry * Interfaith Movement’s Status * Pastor or Cop?

bullet Having been handed a anti-social behaviour order (Asbo), David Camp, of Cambridge, England, has been banned from going near Islamic buildings in east London for a period of 12 months after posting racist messages on Twitter.

bullet Using the hashtag #hijabuppropet (hijab outcry) a number of women across Sweden published pictures of themselves on Twitter and other social media websites on Monday wearing headscarves.

They did so in solidarity with a pregnant woman wearing a headscarf who was harassed and assaulted in a Stockholm suburb last weekend. The woman believes her faith was the reason for the assault, during which her headscarf was pulled off. The attacker also shouted racist taunts.

Why Muslim women wear veils

Instragram screenshot

Instagram screenshot

bullet America’s interfaith movement is facing some challenges.

Well-known interfaith organizations such as the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, the National Council of Churches, and the Parliament of the World’s Religions have been laying off staff members as revenues shrink.

But some experts see positive developments as well:

  • Over the past three decades religious minorities have grown significantly in size and stature
  • Nowadays Americans interact more easily with people of other faiths, and
  • nationwide there currently are twice as many interfaith groups as a decade ago

bullet Authorities have issues an arrest warrant for Matt Pitt, Founder and Pastor of The Basement Ministry — a youth outreach in Birmingham, Alabama.

Pitt faces jail time after being arrested a second time on charges of trying to impersonate a police officer.

The Basement is one of the largest youth ministries in the USA.

bullet Remember this story? Second Woman Claims Clinic Gave Her ‘False Memories’ of Satanic Rituals (February 16, 2012).

We just saw this tweet from the Castlewood Victims Twitter account:

By now, three more women have filed lawsuits against Castlewood Treatment Center in St. Louis, MO, and against the center’s founder, psychologist Mark Schwartz.

The women allege that Schwartz brainwashed them into believing they were members of satanic cults.

Schwartz stepped down last May from his position as the Center’s Director.

The lawsuits: Case 1, Case 2, Case 3, Case 4
Research resources on brainwashing

bullet According to a local NBC affiliate, exorcisms are gaining popularity in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The station doesn’t really offer any proof, but it did “take a look at two Bay Area Exorcists.” One of them is Father Gary Thomas, the official exorcist for the Diocese of San Jose.

Thomas is one of about 14 Vatican-certified exorcists working in the U.S. and the real-life counterpart to the character played by Colin O’Donoghue (not, as NBC says, Anthony Hopkins) in the 2011 thriller “The Rite.”

The station quotes Thomas as saying that the number of exorcists has quadrupled since the movie came out.

Curious about exorcism? Check these research resources

bullet A court in Iran has sentenced a Christian convert to 10 years in prison for “endangering state security” and “conspiracy.”

His crime? Mohammad Hadi Bordba distributed copies of the bible in the Islamic Republic after he converted to Christianity from Islam.

bullet A Utah judge has extended the deadline to apply for a board of trustees being formed to take over the United Effort Plan — a state-run trust that once belonged to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), polygamous sect of Mormonism.

bullet An increasing number of young converts to Islam are traveling from France on a mission to engage in ‘holy war in Syria.

Like other European countries France is threatening to jail those who do so (and/or those who recruit them).

The father or two converts has given an exclusive interview to the BBC claiming his sons were brainwashed.

bullet How do people forgive a crime like murder? In May, 1985, Bill Pelke’s 78-year-old grandmother was stabbed to death by four teenage girls who then ransacked her house.

Ringleader Paula Cooper was sentenced to death on 11 July 1986, and Pelke thought that was an appropriate sentence. But 18 months after his grandmother’s death he started to reconsider.

He became increasingly convinced that his grandmother – a devout Christianwould have felt love and compassion for Cooper and would have wanted someone in the family to feel the same.

Though his family members struggled to accept it, he says his decision to forgive brought him “tremendous healing”. [See: The Healing Power of Forgiveness]

Cooper was released in June, her sentence having been set aside due to her good behavior in prison. Not only had Pelke actively campaigned for her release, but he now wants to help her adjust to life outside.