Who isn’t trying to help the victims in the tsunami-ravaged province of Aceh to find the way? Though WorldHelp, the Virginia-based evangelical group that had planned to adopt 300 Aceh tsunami orphans and raise them in a Christian home, has abandoned its plans, the mixing of religion and relief goes on. The Times of India reports that the Colorado Springs-based International Bible Society will distribute 100,000 texts, among them a book translated into Thai titled When Your Whole World Changes; a Muslim foundation has distributed nearly 2,000 Korans and militant Islamic groups are offering religious counseling and veils with its food supplies in Aceh; and the Church of Scientology is administering grief counseling and massages to victims.
Rolling Stone has rejected a pre-scheduled ad for an updated, youth-targeted Bible, published by the country’s largest Bible publisher, Zondervan. The magazine cited an unwritten policy against religious messages in advertisements, and objected to the advertising campaign’s use of the word “truth.” The text which accompanies a picture of a pretty, spiritually-questing man doesn’t mention God, but offers the book as a source of “real truth” amidst the “endless media noise and political spin,” and every ad repeats the tag-line, “‘Timeless truth; Today’s language.’” The general manager of Rolling Stone’s parent company, Wenner Media, made a perfunctory political statement, assuring the public that he wasn’t personally opposed to the religious message in calling the Bible “real truth,” but the magazine wasn’t “‘in the business of publishing advertising for religious messages.’” Though the reasons for the rejection seem more shallow than insidious — marketing professor Paul Lane speculates that the company is trying to protect its, ahem, “‘counter-culture image’” — it comes just weeks after the United Church of Christ controversy, wherein two broadcast stations turned down a church ad deemed “too controversial” for promoting tolerance of homosexuality. We’ll stick with our pal Jer on this one: censorship’s a bad thing.
Children of God “Dropping Like Flies”
“‘It’s a war now between ourselves and our parents. This is the cream of the crop coming back to get them,’” said John La Mattery, a former member of the loosely Christian-based Children of God sect (renamed Family International). Two former members of the group have recently committed suicide, including Ricky Rodriguez, who was raised to be the future prophet of the group but killed himself and a former nanny he accused of sexually abused him as a child. Rodriguez left a video confession for the murder-suicide in which he called on other former sect members to get justice from their childhood abusers, but despite this call, and Matterly’s declaration of war, ex-member Daniele Roselle told Don Lattin of the San Francisco Chroniclethe real danger is the growing number of suicides among the former Children of God, who are “‘dropping like flies.’”
Crying Holy War
Joe Malinconico of The Star-Ledger relays the most detailed description yet given by New Jersey authorities about last week’s murder of a family of Egyptian Coptic Christians in Jersey City, whose funeral yesterday errupted into a brawl between Christian mourners and Muslims who attended to pay their respects. According to the office of the county prosecutor handling the case, none of the family’s Coptic Christian artifacts were desecrated, and the Coptic Cross tattoos on the inside wrist of each family member weren’t defaced as many earlier reports had stated. After the funeral fighting, and some crass but unsurprising calls for Americans to react against the “jihadis” in our midst, authorities seem eager to cut off speculation about religious motives for the crime, positing the killings as part of a failed robbery. Clergy members are also urging people to be patient as the police investigate, and relatives of the family in Egypt said that they don’t believe the crime was connected to religion, but rather “‘the brutality of American society.’”
Ghanaian Bishop Frank Love, founder of the Prince of Peace Mission, announced that he had a revelation that Ghana had been chosen as “‘a Gentile Nation to promote the Kingdom of God after which Israel will be saved.’” Bishop Love’s revelation was connected to a “mystery star” that appeared over the temple of his mission temple in 1998 and then appeared over Bethlehem later that same year. He also saw signs of the end-times in the tsunami and said that time for sinning nations to repent was short, and therefore Ghana’s parliament should ban gay marriage and pass laws encouraging the “decent dressing” of Ghanaian women.
Scopes’ Legacy of Silence
“Intelligent Design” is not the child of the Christian right politicization in the 1980s, but ratherthe product of 80 years of quiet fundamental- ist campaigns against evolution and pressure on textbook makers and schools. Likewise, argues freethinker extraordinaire Susan Jacoby, the 1925 Scopes trial resolved nothing about the Darwin-Creationist conflict, but instead undermined attempts to create the type of middle-ground compromise that exists in many other countries today and convinced fundamentalists that accepting the teaching of evolution led inevitably to the weakening of faith. Jacoby smartly explores the real legacy of the infamous “monkey trial”: the alteration and censorship of textbooks to accomodate a newly-politicized group of Christian mothers; the ghettoization of evolution to a separate, optional section in many science texts; and the silencing of teachers “who know better” but are afraid of conflict with fundamentalist teachers and so avoid the subject altogether. “Only now,” writes Jacoby, “when the religious right is no longer satisfied with avoidance but is demanding that schools add anti-Darwinist intelligent design to the curriculum, are defenders of evolution fighting back against the intimidation that has worked so well since the premature declaration of the death of fundamentalism in the 1920′s.”
Teenagers and Church Music
Parents might not understand, but their kids do. Dr. Barbara J. Resch, the coordinator of Music Education at Indiana University/Purdue University, publishes a study on “Teenager’s Perceptions of Church Music,” and finds that they’re not necessarily drawn to “stylistically derivative” praise music that draws on rock or pop to lure teenagers to church, but are more concerned with the context of the music when considering its appropriateness.
Only Campaign Promises Can Break Your Heart
Have the “moral values” voters been had? Social conservatives are calling the White House in droves to complain about Bush’s comments to The Washington Post last weekend, stating that he didn’t intend to lobby the Senate to pass an amendment banning gay marriage as a number of senators had indicated they wouldn’t support the amendment unless courts strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (which allows states to disregard same-sex marriages conducted in other states). “‘It was not articulated that way in the campaign,’” said Family Research Council president, Tony Perkins, who considers marriage the most pressing issue facing the country. Focus on the Family president Tom Minnery wondered why Bush was using his “political capital” on Social Security reform rather than marriage. “‘The nation is greatly conflicted on that issue [Social Security reform]. [But] the nation is united on marriage.’” Though by “the nation” Minnery seems to mean “the victors,” Bush advisors have privately admitted that the president is shying away from battles over abortion and same-sex marriage “that cannot be won.”
Reading God’s Brothel in Salt Lake City
Democratic Utah State Senator Ed Allen distributed 104 copies of the book, God’s Brothel, for his fellow legislators to read on the long bus ride to hear the governor’s State of the State address Tuesday. Allen, who mentioned the migration of Warren Jeffs’ breakaway sect — which he attributes to Utah’s crackdown on child bigamy — said he was hoping to raise awareness that polygamy is neither funny nor an anecdotal phenomenon.
Aceh Gets the Words