RNB QuickLinks: Heidi Klum, a noisy church burglar, and ‘Christian’ gossip

When the Spirit moves you…

Police snare man who allegedly broke into a church to play the drums

Bridgeport police said they snared a 47-year-old man who broke into a local church to play the drums. Police said Michael Smith, of Weston, was driving by the Holy Ghost Deliverance Church on Monday afternoon when he spotted a drum set through its window.

He was charged with criminal trespass and breach of peace after allegedly breaking into the church, where officers found him in a spirited solo after the church’s alarm system went off.

Religion Trends

Study finds more U.S. Orthodox Christian converts

A new study of Orthodox Christians in America has found a larger-than-expected number of converts, mostly from Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestant backgrounds. […]

Although Orthodox churches were historically immigrant communities, the study found that nine out of 10 parishioners are now American-born. Thousands of members had converted to the faith as adults: 29% of Greek Orthodox are converts, as are 51% of the OCA. […]

The study also found unexpectedly high numbers of converts among clergy — 56% in the OCA, 14% in the Greek Orthodox church. […]

These findings could mean that Orthodox churches are growing in America, assuming there aren’t equal or greater numbers of Orthodox Christians leaving for other faiths; researchers won’t know until they conduct a 2010 membership census. The findings, however, indicate that other Christians are increasingly seeking a more traditional worship experience, Krindatch said.

Computer Games

Digital Praise’s Christian-Themed ‘Guitar Hero’ Clone

Guitar Praise – Solid Rock

Christian rock has joined the guitar videogame craze, introducing a new demographic to the joys of guitar-based videogaming without exposing devout would-be rock stars to the racier elements of Guitar Hero.

Digital Praise’s Guitar Praise – Solid Rock adopts the same concept of “playing” rock tunes on an increasingly difficult level. But it inhabits a gentler world where a bad performance gets you mild clapping and gentle suggestions instead of the raucous boos and catcalls that accompany failure in Guitar Hero.

When Christian-themed “Guitar Hero” spin-off “Guitar Praise: Solid Rock” came out earlier this year, the game had its fair share of skeptics.

But the developers at Fremont, California-based Digital Praise told MTV Multiplayer this week that “sales are exceeding inventory of guitars on hand,” and that the company is focusing on providing stock to Christian retailers so that customers will be able to find the game in time for Christmas.

[Digital Praise CEO Tom Bean:] “We were getting e-mails and letters mailed to us asking to create a guitar controller-based game using Christian music,” he said. “Some of them told us that they attempted to communicate [the idea for the game] to some of the other makers but they were not getting any indication that anything was going to be done€¦ We think that there’s an opportunity that no one else has either seen it or felt compelled to try to address in the marketplace, so we have.”


Get married for more and better sex, says church

Married people have more and better sex, according to a Church of England website designed to encourage couples to tie the knot.

The wedding website was set up to promote church weddings nationally now that changes in the law mean that couples can get married in a wider range of churches, not just their local parish.

One of the website headlines reads: “Marriage provides more and better sex,” before going on to explain that “sex within marriage has an enduring and unifying quality”.

The website says that contrary to popular perception, married people have much more sex. It quotes a 2004 study of money, sex and happiness, based on 16,000 American adults, which finds that married people have more sex than those who are single, divorced, widowed or separated, and that sexual activity is linked with happiness.

The claim of better sex is backed up with quotations from books on marriage, including A Guide to Christian Marriage, which says that better sex is the result of love and commitment.


‘ONE Sabbath’ Mobilizes People of Faith around Global Poverty, Disease

ONE Sabbath — from ONE: the campaign to make poverty history

The national effort, called ONE Sabbath, gives local congregations and believers opportunities to respond to such global challenges as AIDS, malaria, lack of clean water and children out of school, and informs congregations about the proven solutions that can save lives and transform impoverished communities.

The ONE Sabbath effort includes Jewish and Christian congregations and encompasses ONE Sadaqa in the Muslim community and ONE Seva in the Hindu community. […]

ONE Sabbath provides participants with tools to become advocates within their own faith traditions. Whether through a small study group, a question to a candidate, a sermon, a multimedia worship presentation, a petition, a gift to charity, a community organizing event or a conversation with a neighbor, ONE Sabbath participants will help to educate their communities and inspire healing and hope for those who need it most.


“There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” That’s the text of an ad atheists have placed on London buses. At least one donation for the campaign came from an unexpected source:

Church think tank donates to atheist bus campaign

&#$133; the campaign is being backed by Theos, the think-tank backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams,

“We thought it was a great opportunity for people to think about faith and God, so we decided to support it,” says Paul Woolley, the director of Theos. “It would be hard to come up with a message more self-centred message than this. Stunts like this demonstrate how militant atheists are often great adverts for Christianity.”

So keen was he on the project, which is backed by Professor Richard Dawkins, the prominent atheist, that Theos has donated £50.


Heidi Klum rapped for Hindu fancy dress costume

Heidi Klum’s Controversial Halloween Party

Heidi Klum has come under fire for her scary guise as the Hindu Goddess Kali at her Halloween bash.

The Project Runway host has upset members of the Hindu community with some calling for her to make a public apology.

‘Goddess Kali is highly revered in Hinduism and she is meant to be worshipped in temples and not to be used in clubs for publicity stunts or thrown around loosely for dramatic effects,’ said Rajan Zed, an American Hindu priest.

‘Hindus welcome Hollywood and other entertainment industries to immerse themselves in Hinduism, but they should take it seriously and respectfully, and not just use the religion for decoration or to advance their selfish agenda.’

Previously, Hindus have registered complaints about pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses printed on underwear.

Bhuddists similarly have complained about a Victoria’s Secret bikini with images of Buddha


Mormon patriarchal blessings moving online

Mormons will soon have access to their personal church blessings through an online database. … The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints maintains a paper file of patriarchal blessings in its history department. … So far, 1.7 million blessings of an estimated 3.6 million have been scanned.

Patriarchal blessings are given by designated male church leaders to individual members in good standing. They are considered revelatory statements intended to provide warnings, comfort and guidance for a person’s life.

Books You Won’t Find In The Church Library

Gossip Girls, With God In Their Hearts

Kim Gatlin on the Negative Response to Her Book

In the hyperrich and hyperreligious Dallas enclave known as the Park Cities, Bible study is a contact sport. Author Kim Gatlin, a wealthy, gorgeous divorcee, was inspired to write “Good Christian Bitches” about the backbiting women in her orbit. She spoke with NEWSWEEK’s Gretel C. Kovach.

Is this phenomenon of catty, devout women specific to Dallas?
This is a universal subject. In every affluent neighborhood and every trailer park you have people who are going to gossip and disappoint each other and betray one another. That’s just an ugly part of human nature.

Will your pastor get past the title of the book?
The title is not mocking God. It’s mocking those of us who love God and don’t always make the best choices to honor him.

The brief NEWSWEEK item includes the answers to two additional questions:

• Have you ever been a good Christian bitch?
• Do any Dallasites think you’re a big sinner for writing this novel?

The book description:

Good Christian Bitches is the devilishly fun, yet strikingly honest, tale of Amanda Vaughn, a recently divorced mother of two. To get a fresh start, she moves back to the affluent Dallas neighborhood where she grew up. In an Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Desperate Housewives on steroids style, her old friends are already out to destroy her reputation.

In the whirling midst of salacious gossip, Botox, and fraud, Amanda turns to those who love her and the faith she’s always known. Will the Good Christian Bitches get the best of her, or will everyone see that these GCBs are as counterfeit as their travel jewelry?

Religious Guru

It appears there is a religious angle to a recent story of blackmail involving Germany’s richest woman:

“Nature, well-being and elegant relaxation await you at the Rifugio ‘Valle Grande’ Country House,” promises the English version of the Abruzzo country hotel’s website.

“It is surrounded by a vast private forest at the foot of the beautiful historic Mount Queglia. According to tradition, this is the site where the Italic tribes swore their oath against Rome in 90 BC.”

And according to the Italian police it is also the site where two of the most outrageous fraudsters in recent Italian history retired to count the millions in blackmail takings they had extorted from lonely German billionairesses, to bury at least ‚¬2m (?1.6m) in the hotel grounds, and to launder much of the rest into new luxury cars including a Ferrari, a Lamborghini and a Rolls-Royce.

The owner of the Valle Grande Country House, Ernano Barretta, 63, is in jail in Italy; his accomplice, gigolo par excellence Helg Sgarbi, 41, was arrested in Austria and is in prison in Germany facing trial for extortion. The story of their incredible swindle, and how greed got the better of them, first emerged in Italy in June with Mr Barretta’s arrest. At the time the name of their alleged victim was kept out of the media. But now that she has been revealed as BMW heiress Susanne Klatten, the richest woman in Germany, the story has taken on a new dimension.

And not only because of the stratospheric wealth of Ms Klatten, and the hole the affair has punched in the privacy of one of Germany’s most discreet business dynasties. But also because Helg Sgarbi — if leaks from the interrogation of his partner are to be believed — was much more than just a staggeringly effective extortioner. He is also said to be a man bent on exacting revenge for the crimes of BMW against his father, a Polish Jew and, during the war, a slave labourer in a BMW factory. The group made munitions, aero engines and batteries for U-boats and V2 rockets. If it is true, as alleged, that Mr Sgarbi bedded Ms Klatten in posh hotels in Monte Carlo, Munich and elsewhere, he was sleeping with the enemy, with a cruel vendetta in mind.

Mr Barretta was a poverty-stricken Abruzzo boy who made good. As lord of the Valle Grande manor, he has told visiting journalists his rags-to-riches story: how as a child he walked 10 kilometres to school, how he was apprenticed as a stone-mason but threw it up to emigrate, finding work in Germany and elsewhere, before returning to his roots laden with riches to build his fine hotel.

The journalists may have believed him but for the locals, at least the way they tell it now, there was always something fishy about Mr Barretta and his money. But many in the valley, we are told, were also in thrall to him. This was a man “of great intelligence”, said Gennaro Varone, the public prosecutor leading the investigation, “with the capacity to get many people to follow him, who were subsequently set to work on his estate” for poor wages. Information gleaned from telephone bugs has also convinced investigators that he made a name locally as a religious guru, a man with the ability to “induce belief” and “to speak with the voice of God”. Exploiting these powers, he formed a sort of prayer group, composed mostly of women from the valley, with whom he enjoyed sexual relations in return putting them up for free in his hotel. Mr Barretta flatly denies all this.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday November 6, 2008.
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