The Common Good

Blog Posts By Daniel Burke

Posted by Daniel Burke 1 year 32 weeks ago
The day Franklin Graham was born, he received a telegram.“Welcome to this sin-sick world,” the Western Union message said, “and to the challenge you have to walk in your daddy’s footsteps.”It didn’t take long for Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, to realize that being a preacher’s kid would be both a blessing and a burden.“I love my parents,” Graham said in a recent interview, “but there came a time where I couldn’t let my parents live my life.”
Posted by Daniel Burke 1 year 34 weeks ago
When it comes to running, America often looks like a country divided between apostles and apostates.For true believers like Olympian Ryan Hall, marathons assume an almost-biblical importance.“I have heard stories and had personal experiences in my own running when I felt very strongly that God was involved,” Hall, an evangelical Christian, has said.Other Americans — athletic atheists, you might call them — roll their eyes and see marathons as a painful waste of a perfectly nice day.In the Church of Running, I sit somewhere in the back pew.
Posted by Daniel Burke 1 year 37 weeks ago
He came to Jesus at night, sneaking off to see the man behind the miracles.He was a powerful Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council. He wasn’t supposed to mix with the motley lot that followed Jesus.But Nicodemus had to know: Was the charismatic Galilean for real?
Posted by Daniel Burke 1 year 41 weeks ago
You won’t find many Catholic churches named after Pope Benedict IX.Benedict IX squandered the papacy’s moral and financial riches in bordellos and banquet halls. His violence and debauchery “shocked even the Romans,” said philosopher Bertrand Russell, which is kind of like being busted for lewdness in Las Vegas. He was a puppet pope, installed by his powerful family at a time when rival clans ruled Rome. The young man seemed uninterested in religious life, rushing through ordination only after his election to the Throne of St. Peter in 1032.St. Peter Damian called Benedict IX a "demon from hell in the disguise of a priest." The Catholic Encyclopedia labels him a “disgrace to the chair of St. Peter.” He was the first Pope Benedict to resign, selling the papacy for gold in order to marry. He later tried to reclaim the holy office and served three stints as pope between 1032 and 1048.Nearly a millennium later, the pious and bookish Pope Benedict XVI seems completely contrary to his notorious namesake. Even if his papacy has stumbled at times, by all accounts the current Benedict has led a chaste life devoted to serving his church.
Posted by Daniel Burke 1 year 42 weeks ago
Before Elvis and Chuck Berry and Johnny Cash. Before Aretha and Whitney and Beyonce. Before the blues met gospel and conceived rock ‘n’ roll, there was Sister Rosetta Tharpe.The first gospel superstar, Tharpe was a guitar hero in a flower-print dress whose bluesy chops and strutting style would be mimicked by countless acolytes, both white and black.“I mean, she’s singing religious music, but she is singing rock ‘n’ roll,” said one such devotee, Jerry Lee Lewis, of “Great Balls of Fire” fame. “She’s hitting that guitar, playing that guitar, and she is singing. I said, ‘Whoooo. Sister Rosetta Tharpe!’”Though no longer a household name, Tharpe gets the star treatment in a new documentary for the PBS series American Masters. Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock & Roll will be broadcast Friday on PBS in honor of Black History Month.
Posted by Daniel Burke 1 year 43 weeks ago
Not all Catholics appreciated Pope Benedict XVI’s staunch defense of Christian orthodoxy, traditional marriage, and life from conception to natural death. But American evangelicals sure did.As word spread on Monday of Benedict’s resignation, many evangelicals lamented the impending loss of a powerful spokesman for their conservative causes.“Pope Benedict XVI has exemplified moral courage and an unwavering commitment to the Gospel message,” said Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, a conservative Christian political group.“We honor him for his lifelong service to the Lord and his inestimable intellectual contribution to Christian orthodoxy.”The high praise — “evangelical Benedictions,” you might say — extended beyond U.S. borders as well.
Posted by Daniel Burke 1 year 47 weeks ago
President Obama will publicly take the oath of office on two Bibles once owned by his political heroes, Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. One Bible was well read, but cited cautiously, the other granted scriptural sanction to the civil rights movement.When Obama lifts his hands from the Bibles and turns to deliver his second inaugural address on Monday (Jan. 21), his own approach to Scripture will come into view. Characteristically, it sits somewhere between the former president and famous preacher.His faith forged in the black church, Obama draws deeply on its blending of biblical narratives with contemporary issues such as racism and poverty. But like Lincoln, Obama also acknowledges that Americans sometimes invoke the same Bible to argue past each other, and that Scripture itself counsels against sanctimony.Obama articulated this view most clearly in a 2006 speech, saying that secularists shouldn’t bar believers from the public square, but neither should people of faith expect America to be one vast amen corner.“He understands that you can appeal to people on religious grounds,” said Jeffrey Siker, a theology professor at Loyola Marymount University in California who has studied Obama’s speeches. ”But you also have to be able to translate your case into arguments that people of different faiths, or no faith, can grasp.”
Posted by Daniel Burke 1 year 48 weeks ago
The seven deadly sins have new partners in crime.Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride still attract a lot of attention. But as the Internet and other media invade American life, our vices have also gone virtual, according to a new study.Nearly half of Americans say they are tempted to idle the hours away on the Internet, video games and television, according to Barna Group, a California-based Christian research organization.
Posted by Daniel Burke 1 year 49 weeks ago
Despite a deep drop in the number of Americans who identify with a particular faith, the country could be on the cusp of a religious renaissance, says Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of The Gallup Poll.Grounded in more than a million Gallup interviews, Newport's new book, God is Alive and Well, argues that the aging of the baby boomers, the influx of Hispanic immigrants and the links between religion and health could portend a bright future for faith in America.This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 1 week ago
Most Americans say that employers — even religious ones — should provide birth control coverage to their employees, according to a survey released on Monday. The poll by LifeWay Research also showed that almost two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) believe businesses should be required to provide the coverage for free, even if contraception conflicts with the owner’s religious ethics.As part of the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 health care reform law, President Barack Obama issued regulations that require most employers, including some religious ones like Catholic colleges and hospitals, to provide birth control coverage. The administration has said it may expand the policy to accommodate additional religious organizations.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 2 weeks ago
Another star of the CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men” has gone rogue — but in a decidedly different direction than notorious carouser Charlie Sheen.Actor Angus T. Jones — the “half” in the sitcom’s title — says in a new online testimony that he’s become a Seventh-day Adventist and loathes the “filth” produced by his raunchy show.“You cannot be a true God-fearing person and be on a television show like that,” says Jones, 19, in a video posted online by Forerunner Chronicles. “I know I can’t. I’m not OK with what I’m learning, what the Bible says, and being on that television show.”“Please stop watching it,” says Jones, who reportedly earns $350,000 per episode and has starred in the show since he was 10. “Please stop filling your head with filth.”
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 4 weeks ago
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said on Nov. 15 that the Diocese of South Carolina can't unilaterally secede from the national church, as she urged conservatives to stay despite sharp disagreements over theology and homosexuality.“The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina continues to be a constituent part of The Episcopal Church, even if a number of its leaders have departed,”  said Jefferts Schori, who heads the 1.9 million-member denomination. Leaders in the Diocese of South Carolina announced Oct. 17 that disciplinary actions taken against their bishop, Mark Lawrence, triggered their disaffiliation from the Episcopal Church. On Sept. 18, the denomination's Disciplinary Board for Bishops found Lawrence guilty of abandoning the Episcopal Church and renouncing its rules.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 5 weeks ago
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 6 weeks ago
Pollsters and politicians hunting for the rare and elusive undecided voter might want to train their sights on the pulpit.A whopping 22 percent of Protestant pastors haven’t settled on a presidential candidate, according to a survey released earlier this month by LifeWay Research. By comparison, just 4 percent of all likely voters remain undecided, according to Gallup.The undecided pastor trend doesn’t appear to be a one-time fluke. A similar survey conducted in October 2008 also found that 22 percent of pastors hadn’t chosen between Obama and then-GOP nominee Sen. John McCain.The survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors was conducted Sept. 26-Oct. 3 by LifeWay Research, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources, which was founded by the Southern Baptist Convention.Pursued by politicians, mocked by "Saturday Night Live" and barely tolerated by partisans, undecided voters get a bum rap. But there are good reasons for pastors to remain ambivalent until Election Day, experts said.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 8 weeks ago
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association removed language labeling Mormonism a “cult” from its website after the famed preacher met with Republican nominee Mitt Romney last week and pledged to help his presidential campaign.The removal came after a gay rights group reported that the “cult” reference remained online even after Graham all but endorsed Romney, a Mormon, on Oct. 11. Ken Barun, the BGEA’s chief of staff, confirmed the removal on Tuesday.“Our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Barun said in a statement. “We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 9 weeks ago
A majority of Protestant pastors plan to vote for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, according to a new survey, but nearly a quarter are still undecided less than a month from Election Day.Just 17 percent of Protestant pastors said they would vote to re-elect President Obama, with 57 percent favoring Romney and 22 percent undecided, according to a survey conducted by LifeWay Research. Based in Nashville, Tenn., the research firm is a branch of LifeWay Christian Resources.The results are remarkably similar to a LifeWay survey conducted in October 2008, which found that 55 percent of Protestant pastors planned to vote for then-GOP nominee John McCain, 20 percent for Obama and 22 percent were undecided.
Posted by David Gibson, Daniel Burke 2 years 9 weeks ago
When Joe Biden and Paul Ryan face off in the vice-presidential debate Thursday night, it will mark the first showdown of its kind between the first Catholics ever to oppose each other on the major party tickets.A “Catholic Thrilla in Manila” as a Washington Post headline put it, recalling the famous 1975 Ali-Frazier heavyweight bout in the Philippines. Store window signs in the host city of Danville, Ky., prefer the “Thrill in the Ville.”Whatever it is called, expectations among Catholics are as high as the stakes for both campaigns.Joseph Cella, who leads Catholic outreach for the Romney-Ryan campaign in Michigan, where the GOP ticket has nearly closed a 10-point gap, said the campaign is organizing debate-watching parties nationwide.“I don¹t see how Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan could avoid discussing principles of importance to Catholics,” said Cella, a veteran conservative activist.
Posted by Daniel Burke, David Gibson 2 years 10 weeks ago
BETHESDA, Md. — With voters focused intently on pocketbook issues, both Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are framing their faith-outreach efforts around the economy as the presidential campaign enters its final weeks.That marks a shift from previous election cycles, campaign advisers say.“That’s a major difference between this election and the last. The economy is the single issue that transcends every demographic, every coalition, every interest group,” said Mark DeMoss, an evangelical who has led Romney’s efforts to rally conservative Christians — a key Republican voting bloc — around the GOP nominee, who is a Mormon.“Evangelicals are no less interested in the unemployment rate and the cost of living than non-evangelicals,” DeMoss added.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 11 weeks ago
Mitt Romney angered evangelicals during his first White House run in 2008 by blurring the theological lines between their faith and his Mormonism. Lurching in the other direction, he irked them again by scarcely mentioning religion at all during this year’s GOP primaries.But Romney has finally found some middle ground, evangelical leaders say, by sidelining theology and stressing the “Judeo-Christian values” that he shares with social conservatives.“He’s made it very clear not to gloss over the theological differences that his faith has with evangelicals,” said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council in Washington. “As long as he talks about the shared values of our religious traditions, I think he’s good.”Romney did exactly that during a Sept. 9 Meet the Press interview, saying that religion inspired him to run for president — without mentioning the word “Mormon.” “The Judeo-Christian ethics that I was brought up with -- the sense of obligation to one’s fellow man, an absolute conviction that we are all sons and daughters of the same God and therefore in a human family — is one of the reasons I am doing what I’m doing,” he said.Conservative Christian leaders are taking the same approach, urging evangelicals to focus on Romney’s policies and principles, not the particulars of his faith.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 11 weeks ago
President Obama’s support among Catholic voters has surged since June, according to a new poll, despite a summer that included the Catholic bishops’ religious freedom campaign and the naming of Rep. Paul Ryan, a Catholic, as the GOP's vice-presidential candidate.On June 17, Obama held a slight edge over Mitt Romney among Catholics (49-47 percent), according to the Pew Research Center. Since then, Obama has surged ahead, and now leads 54-39 percent, according to a Pew poll conducted on Sept. 16.Among all registered voters, Obama leads Romney 51-42 percent, according to Pew.Obama and Romney are essentially tied among white Catholics, which some pollsters call the ultimate swing group. On Sept. 24 Romney unveiled his Catholics for Romney Coalition, which includes numerous politicians, beer magnate Pete Coors and Princeton University intellectual Robert P. George. The Obama campaign also has a Catholic coalition. 
Posted by Daniel Burke, David Gibson 2 years 12 weeks ago
In a surprise announcement that seemed scripted by the novelist Dan Brown, a Harvard professor revealed an ancient scrap of papyrus on Tuesday (Sept. 18) that purports to refer to Jesus' wife.The so-called "Gospel of Jesus' Wife" presents a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples, said Karen King, a well-respected historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School.    The fourth-century fragment says, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife ...,'" according to King. The rest of the sentence is cut off. The fragment also says "she will be able to be my disciple," according to King.   The discovery that some ancient Christians thought Jesus had a wife could shake up centuries-old Christian traditions, King suggested.    But even King acknowledged that questions remain about the receipt-sized scrap, which contains just 33 words and incomplete sentences. Here are five of the biggest questions.  
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 12 weeks ago
Dan Brown, your phone is ringing.A newly revealed piece of papyrus offers fresh evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus was married, according to a Harvard Divinity School professor.A fourth-century codex in Coptic quotes Jesus referring to “my wife,” Karen King, a scholar of early Christianity, said on Tuesday. It is the only extant text in which Jesus is explicitly portrayed as betrothed, according to King.King is calling the receipt-sized slip of papyrus “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” She believes it was originally written in Greek, and later translated into Coptic, an Egyptian language.The fragment says, "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...,'" according to King. The rest of the sentence is cut off. Another segment says, "As for me, I dwell with her in order to..." The speaker is not named.The fragment contains just 33 words spread across 14 incomplete lines—less a full-fledged gospel than an ancient crossword puzzle. 
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 13 weeks ago
Coptic Christian leaders in the United States distanced themselves from an anti-Muslim film that has sparked protests in more than 24 countries, and denounced the Copts who reportedly produced and promoted the film."We reject any allegation that the Coptic Orthodox community has contributed to the production of this film," the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of America said in statement on Friday."Indeed, the producers of this film have taken these unwise and offensive actions independently and should be held responsible for their own actions."  
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 13 weeks ago
When inflamed mobs stormed the U.S. embassies in Libya and Egypt on Tuesday, the media quickly looked to a likely spark.Florida Pastor Terry Jones ignited deadly riots by threatening to burn Qurans in 2010, and by torching the Islamic holy text last year. Recently, Jones said he would promote a crude film that portrays Islam’s Prophet Muhammad as a foolish sexual pervert.But in the days before the protests, Jones made no public mention of the film — called Innocence of Muslims — even as he prepared to stage an “International Judge Muhammad Day” on Sept. 11.Instead, the man who translated the film into Arabic, sent it to Egyptian journalists, promoted it on his website and posted it on social media was an obscure Egyptian-born Coptic Christian who lives near Washington and proudly touts his ties to Jones.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 14 weeks ago
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, revered as a messiah within his Unification Church but regarded by many others as a vain and enigmatic man who blessed mass weddings, built a sprawling business empire and presided over a personality cult, died on Monday in South Korea. He was 92.Moon had been in intensive care at a Seoul hospital since Aug. 7, according to his church. The cause of death was complications from pneumonia, including kidney failure.Moon was born in 1920 in what is now North Korea, and rose from a home in which five siblings starved to death to become an ambitious man who harbored a lifelong hatred of communism, craved respect from the rich and powerful and professed a divine mandate to restore a fallen world. 
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 15 weeks ago
On the first Monday of September, America honors working stiffs by taking a paid day off. But does Labor Day celebrate an enterprise that God intended to be a punishment?In a recent New York Times essay on the frenetic hustle of modern life, humorist and author Tim Kreider took the Puritans and their infamous work ethic to task. They had turned toil into a virtue, he argued, whereas God had invented it to chastise the disobedient Adam and Eve.In an interview, Kreider explained that he was referring to Genesis, in which God tells Adam “by the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread.” In the same chapter, the serpent is sentenced to an eternity of belly slithering and Eve condemned to severe childbearing pains. “Coming as it does on the heels of the infamous Illicit Fruit Incident, the details of which there’s no need to re-hash, certainly makes it sound punitive,” said Kreider, who said he’s a veteran of 18 years of Sunday school, but no Bible scholar.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 15 weeks ago
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has spent most of his adult life trying to build interfaith and international bridges. But to many Americans, he is the public face of the so-called "Ground Zero mosque," one of the most controversial religious projects in recent U.S. history.Rauf reflects on that turmoil in his new book, Moving the Mountain: Beyond Ground Zero to a New Vision of Islam in America. But as the book's subtitle suggests, the longtime imam spends most of his time facing forward — toward the development of a distinctly American brand of Islam. He spoke recently with Religion News Service. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.    Q: Why did you write this book?A: I wrote this book because the American public saw me and heard me, but really didn’t get to know me very well, or to understand what my work was all about. This book is my calling card to the American public.
Posted by Dan Ivers, Daniel Burke 2 years 15 weeks ago
RIDGEWOOD, N.J.  — The parents of Tyler Clementi have left their longtime evangelical church due to its views on homosexuality.Jane and Joe Clementi told The New York Times that they had grown increasingly out of step with the Grace Church, a nondenominational evangelical church in Ridgewood, N.J., due to its casting of homsexuality as sinful.Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge in 2010. His death came just days after his roommate, Dharun Ravi, had spied on him during a tryst with another man in their freshman dormitory at Rutgers University.Ravi was convicted of 15 charges, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, in March. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, of which he served 20.The case garnered national attention from the media, as well as gay rights and anti-bullying activists. Clementi had come out to his parents just days before he left for college, and numerous news outlets reported that he had left feeling rejected. According to the Times, Tyler told his mother that he did not believe he could be Christian and gay.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 16 weeks ago
More than 20 lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides, including one nude congressman, took a booze-fueled late-night swim in Israel’s Sea of Galilee last summer, Politico reported on Monday. Which leaves at least one question: Is skinny-dipping at the biblical site sacrilegious?Not really, Christian leaders and Holy Land experts said.“Conservative Christians, obviously, aren't for getting naked in public or drunk anywhere,” said Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.“The location of the Sea of Galilee, however, doesn't make the story any more offensive to Christians than it is to the general public,” he said.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 17 weeks ago
The 2012 presidential campaign could bear a new subtitle: A Tale of Two Catholics.For the first time in U.S. history, both sides of the ballot include Roman Catholics: Democrats’ Vice President Joe Biden, and Republicans' newly named vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.Ryan, 42, still belongs to the Catholic parish, St. John Vianney in Janesville, Wis., where he was an altar boy. Biden, 69, the first Catholic vice president in U.S. history, attends Mass at St. Patrick’s Parish and St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church, both in Wilmington, De.Biden and Ryan both cite their faith as a formative influence, but neither is known as a standard-bearer for the Catholic hierarchy’s chief political causes: abortion and gay marriage. In fact, the two candidates are — politically at least — nearly polar opposites.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 18 weeks ago
Funeral services will be held today for the six Sikhs killed at a Wisconsin temple last Sunday. The bodies of the deceased will later be cremated —  but their souls will live on, Sikh tradition teaches.Sikh scriptures don't dwell on what happens after death. Instead, the faith focuses on earthly duties, such as honoring God, performing charity and promoting justice."The afterlife is not a primary concern," said Gurinder Singh Mann, a religious studies professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara. "It's a very life-affirming belief system."Still, like many religions, Sikhism includes intimations of immortality.Founded in 15th-century India, Sikhism was born in the same cradle as Hinduism and Buddhism, both of which posit reincarnation. Like those faiths, Sikhism teaches that the goal is to escape from the cycle of death and rebirth.But unlike Hindus and Buddhists, Sikhs believe that humans can't liberate themselves through meditation and virtuous living — only God's grace offers freedom from rebirth."We don't think that, 'Well, I've done these wonderful things, I get a ticket to heaven,'" said Mann. "That's a divine decision."
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 18 weeks ago
Law enforcement authorities don't know why suspected gunman Wade Michael Page burst into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., on Sunday and opened fire, killing six before he was shot dead by the police.But many American Sikhs say they do know this: Their community has been targeted by a growing number of hate crimes since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The New York-based Sikh Coalition reports more than 700 such incidents since 2001. The question is: Why?"The turban is the main issue here," said Pashaura Singh, a professor of Sikh and Punjabi studies at the University of California-Riverside. "People confuse Sikhs with Osama bin Laden."Following 9/11, bin Laden and his al-Qaida associates were often shown in media reports wearing white turbans. Combine that with a lack of basic knowledge about the estimated 500,000 Sikhs living in the U.S. and you get tragic — and sometimes violent — cases of mistaken identity.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 19 weeks ago
Back in in 1993, Snoop Dogg scored a huge hit with the hip-hop anthem “What’s My Name?” Announcing his conversion to Rastafarianism on Monday, the rapper unveiled a new answer to that lyrical question.“I want to bury Snoop Dogg and become Snoop Lion,” he said at a press conference. So, did the onetime gangsta rapper have to drop the "d-o-double-g" when he became a Rasta? Yes, and no, said Ennis Edmonds, a scholar at Kenyon College and an expert on Rastafarianism. The religious movement doesn’t require converts to change their names. But the faith was born in Jamaica, where calling someone a dog is deeply insulting, Edmonds said.“Rastas would probably see calling yourself a dog as an indication of lack of self-knowledge,” Edmonds said.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 20 weeks ago
WASHINGTON — As he competes against a Mormon in the presidential election, President Obama has appointed the first Mormon member of his White House faith-based council.Elder Steven Snow now serves as the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints official historian.He is also a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, a priesthood order of teachers and administrators.  “The faith-based office is made up of leaders of religions from across our great country, and Elder Snow’s appointment ensures that the LDS faith will have a seat at the table,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Like Snow, Hatch is Mormon. Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee, is also a member of the LDS church.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 20 weeks ago
Most Americans who know that Mitt Romney is Mormon say the presumptive GOP nominee’s faith doesn’t concern them. But a new poll indicates there may be an “enthusiasm gap” for Romney among white evangelicals, a crucial GOP constituency.Sixty percent of Americans know that Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to a survey released Thursday (July 26) by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. That number has barely budged since March, despite intense media focus on Romney’s faith.Interestingly, more Americans know that Romney is Mormon than can correctly identify President Obama as Christian (49 percent). Although most Americans say it is important for a president to have strong religious beliefs, party affiliation -- rather than religion -- drives voter preferences, Pew found.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 21 weeks ago
President Obama and his likely GOP challenger Mitt Romney called for prayers and reflection after a deadly shooting at a Colorado movie theater, while liberal religious leaders called for stricter gun control laws.Police have identified James Holmes, 24, as the man who opened fire at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises, killing at least 12 and wounding 59 others in Aurora, Colo.President Obama cut short his campaign trip in Florida, instead delivering a brief address in Fort Myers. “There are going to be other days for politics,” Obama said. “This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection.”Obama touched on the fragility of life, his concerns as the father of two young daughters, and urged Americans to "spend a little time thinking about the incredible blessings that God has given us."
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 22 weeks ago
The Mormon church is lashing back at a business magazine that parodied their prophet’s mission and portrayed the church as lucratively rich but miserly with charitable donations.A lengthy story in Bloomberg Businessweek that hits newsstands on Friday details The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ vast financial holdings, from a $2 billion mall in Salt Lake City to a $1 billion ranch in Florida.Reaction to the magazine’s cover has overshadowed the article, however. The illustration satirizes the moment when Mormons believe John the Baptist bestowed the priesthood on Joseph Smith, the faith's founding prophet.In the parody, John the Baptist tells Smith, “and thou shalt build a shopping mall, own stock in Burger King, and open a Polynesian theme park in Hawaii that shall be largely exempt from the frustrations of tax ...” Smith answers, “Hallelujah.”LDS church spokesman Michael Purdy said the magazine cover is “in such poor taste it is difficult to even find the words to comment on it.”
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 23 weeks ago
Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” radically reinterpreted the Declaration of Independence.The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech riffed on Lincoln’s lofty language.And Ronald Reagan drafted King’s dream of a country where character outweighs color into an argument against affirmative action. There are certain speeches, songs, books, letters, laws, and axioms that Americans appreciate enough to argue about, says religion scholar Stephen Prothero.Like the Declaration of Independence, this almost consecrated canon inspires endless commentary about what it means to be American — and what “America” means.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 24 weeks ago
Most Mormons in Utah believe that Mitt Romney’s rise to become the likely GOP presidential nominee is a good thing for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But many do not trust the media to cover the church fairly, according to a new poll released on June 25.The study, conducted by Key Research and Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, is believed to be the first to gauge Mormons’ reaction to Romney’s barrier-breaking achievement. He is the first Mormon to clinch the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party.More than eight in 10 Utah Mormons said they are “very excited” or “somewhat excited” about Romney’s feat. Nearly as many (77 percent) said his nomination is a good thing for the LDS church; just 2 percent told pollsters it was a negative development.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 25 weeks ago
Nearly one in five Americans say they would not vote for a Mormon president, a percentage that has hardly budged since 1967, according to a new Gallup poll.It is unclear how the anti-Mormon bias will affect Mitt Romney, the presumed GOP presidential nominee, Gallup said, since just 57 percent of Americans know that he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.“This suggests the possibility that as Romney's faith becomes better known this summer and fall, it could become more of a negative factor,” Gallup writes, “given that those who resist the idea of a Mormon president will in theory become more likely to realize that Romney is a Mormon as the campaign unfolds.”
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 25 weeks ago
Religious groups have long vied for prime parcels of land, planting churches on town squares and monasteries amid isolated mountains. But now they’re targeting real estate in a less tangible sphere: cyberspace.For the first time in its history, the international nonprofit that doles out generic Internet domain names such as “.com” and “.edu” will allow more specific web address extensions like “.church.”Hundreds of companies, Internet entrepreneurs and cities submitted nearly 2,000 applications, seeking the right to own everything from .app to .zulu, the Britain-based International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers announced last on June 14.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 27 weeks ago
The brothers have come to the sisters’ defense.Leaders from the seven Franciscan provinces in the U.S. publicly backed a group of American nuns on Thursday (June 7), calling a Vatican crackdown on the women “excessive.”The Franciscan friars are believed to be the first Catholic religious order to voice support for the Leadership Conference of Women Religious since the Vatican announced a full-scale makeover of the group in April.The Vatican’s “doctrinal assessment” also faulted the sisters for sponsoring conferences that featured “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”Noting that many members of LCWR belong to female Franciscan orders, the friars pledged solidarity with the sisters and called the Vatican assessment “excessive, given the evidence raised.”
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 28 weeks ago
Mitt Romney clinched the GOP presidential nomination on May 28, becoming the first Mormon selected by a major political party. But will his barrier-breaking faith be a boon or bane to his White House campaign?The answer to that question could presage the next president, and two studies published in May come to contradictory conclusions.In both studies people were given information about Romney and his Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then asked whether they would be more or less likely to vote for him.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 29 weeks ago
Elke Thompson’s high-school friends think she’s nuts, she said. But in the Unification Church, arranged marriages are the norm. The Rev. Sun Myung Moonteaches that romantic love leads to sexual promiscuity, mismatched couples and dysfunctional societies. Several religions practice arranged marriages. Hindu and Jewish matchmakers abound, for instance. But rarely does it rise to the level of dogma. Unificationists believe that marriages arranged through the church and blessed by Moon are “sinless” and foster the kingdom of God on earth, one happy family at a time. 
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 31 weeks ago
United Methodists concluded their General Conference last Friday (May 4) without voting on gay clergy or same-sex marriage, a surprising end to a disappointing week for gay activists.Last Thursday, the nearly 1,000 delegates gathered in Tampa, Fla., soundly rejected two motions that would have amended the United Methodist Church's book of doctrine and rules, which calls the practice of homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching." After those votes, protesters flooded the convention floor, briefly shutting down the conference.Conference planners, evangelical leaders and gay and lesbian advocates met later on Thursday and determined that there was little use in holding additional contentious debates on homosexuality, according to several sources. Proposals to ordain gay clergy and bless same-sex unions held little chance of passing, the parties agreed, and so were pushed to the back of the agenda, essentially assuring that they would not be debated."Leaders of the demonstration were told that the legislation was postponed to avoid more harm to LGBT people and their supporters," the Love Your Neighbor Coalition said in a statement. "The United Methodist Church had an opportunity to offer love, grace, and hope," the coalition said. "Sadly, we did not take that opportunity."
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 32 weeks ago
Despite emotional protests and fierce lobbying from gay rights groups, United Methodists voted on Thursday to maintain their denomination's stance that homosexuals acts are "incompatible with Christian teaching."Two "agree to disagree" proposals were soundly defeated during separate votes by the nearly 1,000 delegates gathered for the United Methodist Church's General Conference in Tampa, Fla.One proposal would have replaced the "incompatible" phrase in the Book of Discipline, which contains the denomination's laws and doctrines. Both proposals sought to soften the disputed doctrine by adding more ambiguous statements about homosexuality.Gay rights advocates in the UMC viewed the compromise proposals as the best chance to advance their cause at this year's General Conference, which convenes every four years. On Friday, delegates are expected to debate the church's bans on noncelibate gay clergy and same-sex marriage.
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 32 weeks ago
United Methodists twice rejected measures on Wednesday (May 2) that called for the denomination to divest from companies accused of contributing to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.Neither vote was particularly close, with about two-thirds of the 1,000 delegates gathered in Tampa, Fla., through May 4 rejecting the calls for divestment.The UMC rejected similar measures at its last General Conference in 2008. 
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 33 weeks ago
As nearly 1,000 delegates from across the world gather in Tampa, Fla., for the United Methodist Church's General Conference, gay and lesbian activists have printed pamphlets promoting their cause in five languages, including Portuguese and Swahili.The UMC's global reach, stretching from the Philippines to Philadelphia, compels the multilingual lobbying. Nearly 40 percent of the delegates, who meet through May 4, live outside the United States, according to church leaders. “We see it as a challenge to deal with the cultural differences,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of Germany, who will be installed in Tampa as president of the UMC’s Council of Bishops. “But we also see it as a gift.”
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 34 weeks ago
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat doesn't mince words in his new book "Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.''Since the 1960s, Douthat argues, institutional Christianity has suffered a slow-motion collapse, leaving the country without the moral core that carried it through foreign wars, economic depressions and roiling internal debates.In its place heresies have cropped up -- from the “God-within” theology of Oprah to the Mammon-obsessed missionaries of the prosperity gospel, says Douthat, a Roman Catholic. 
Posted by Daniel Burke 2 years 35 weeks ago
By age 35, Congressman Tim Ryan had been one of Ohio’s youngest state senators, served two terms in the U.S. Congress and hobnobbed with presidents and prime ministers. But a different story, full of unmet ambitions and caustic self-criticism, coursed through Ryan's mind, carrying him away from even the most important moments.“I was so caught up in my story that I missed my life,” the Ohio Democrat writes in his new book, “A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit.”