The Good News Club
Tina Hinz of The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier in Iowa reports on the progress of after-school Good News Clubs in Iowa elementary schools. The clubs, of which there are currently 1,300 nationwide, are a ministry of the international Child Evangelism Fellowship and offer Bible lessons, missionary stories, songs, Scripture memorization activities and review games for public school students age 5-12. The clubs are allowed follwing a 2001 Supreme Court ruling that religious groups can use public schools like other community groups, and schools are lawfully required to distribute Good News invitations to all students. Said Rita Kehoe, a first-grade teacher who volunteers for one of Iowa’s Good News Clubs, “‘When you teach public school, you can’t use sin and obeying God in your lesson, and it’s frustrating when you see kids being disruptive and can’t use the Bible as guidance.'” But now, “‘Since it’s after school, you can.'”
Transexual Inheritance in Saudi Arabia
“‘The events of Sept. 11, 2001 changed many people’s lives and many Saudis, especially students. The big question of course was: How would I return to Saudi Arabia? What would my legal status be in the Kingdom? I had a Saudi passport with a photo of me as a man but I was now a woman. How could I return as a woman and would the authorities allow me to enter the country? There was no solution except for me to return as a man.'” An interview with Ahmad, a young Saudi transexual who became a woman after inheriting the full, man’s share of his millionaire father’s estate: twice as much as a woman may inherit under Islamic law.
If Jerry Falwell Really Cared About Marriage…
A member of the New Zealand parliament, Paul Adams, is fasting for three weeks in the hope that God will intervene in the passage of the Civil Union Bill, which would give same-sex relationships legal status equal to heterosexual marriage. Adams has fasted for many causes over the past 18 years, including a fast in support of renovations at his church, and is confident that his fasting will affect the upcoming vote. “‘It’s like when I was motor-racing when I used a different type of tyre; most people couldn’t tell the difference, but I know it did make a difference. This is the same — I know that fasting will make a difference.'”
Swiss Stem-Cells
Swiss voters have approved a new law permitting embryonic stem-cell research by a two-thirds margin, after Switzerland became the first country in the world to put the issue to a popular vote.
P.R. for Knights Templar
The Knights Templar, a secretive organization formed during the Crusades to protect Christian pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land and a group which the Freemasons claim as ancestors, has requested a papal apology 700 years after the Catholic Church, under Pope Clement V, persecuted them as heretics and killed Templar leaders.
Offend Me
Alt.Muslim offers a delightful guide to being Muslim and offended. There’s Southpark. There’re Muslim stand-up comedians. There’re outdoor underwear ads…
Jesus Down Under
Conservative Christianity roared back into political fashion at last month’s federal election… inAustralia.
‘Bawler and Jumper’ Dies
The Rev. Billy James Hargis — “a shouting, arm-waving, 270-pound elemental force whom Oklahomans called a ‘bawl and jump’ preacher,” who might have matched Billy Graham in popularity if he’d talked about anything besides commies — has been promoted to his final reward.
W.’s Iran
A religiously conservative leader whose intellectual qualifications are questioned by even some among his own party presses ahead nonetheless with a radical right agenda, undoing nearly a decade of progressive reforms to take his country back to where it was doing the Reagan years. W.? No. Well, yeah, him, too. But The Washington Post‘s Robin Wright is talking about Iran’sAyatollah Ali Khamenei.
One Market Under God
There’s red, there’s blue, and then there’s religion. Tom Frank, author of What’s the Matter With Kansas, on what smug liberals don’t get about God and how real leftists can talk about the true faith — free marketeerism — of the pundit class.
A Melvillean Note

“[U]nless you are a believing Christian with strong fundamentalist leanings,” writes Lee Siegelin New York, “you cannot truly understand Gilead,” the second novel by Marilynne Robinson, author of Housekeeping, one of the great novels of the 20th century. “Robinson currently represents everything that liberal, urbane, ironic culturati are now derided for smugly disdaining.” No — just everything that ill-informed critics are derided for earnestly dismissing. Robinson is as far from fundamentalism as one can get in the spectrum of American Protestantism.

The New York Times, meanwhile, really does represent much of what reactionary, anti-urban, smug culture warriors are now derided for smugly disdaining. And yet, if they can gulp back their bile and take a chance on a deeply Christian, and deeply un-fundamentalist book, they will find a worthy review of it in yesterday’s paper. Robinson’s “is a mind as religious as it is literary — perhaps more religious than literary — in which silence is itself a quality, and in which the space around words may be full of noises,” writes James Wood.

“In ordinary, secular fiction, a writer who ‘takes things down to essentials’ is reducing language to increase the amount of secular meaning (or sometimes, alas, to decrease it). When Robinson reduces her language, it’s because secular meaning has exhausted itself and is being renovated by religious meaning. Robinson, who loves Melville and Emerson, cannot rid herself of the religious habit of using metaphor as a form of revelation. [The main character] spends much time musing on the question of what heaven will be like. Surely, he thinks, it will be a changed place, yet one in which we can still remember our life on earth: ‘In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets.’ There sings a true Melvillean note.”