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The incident seems like a straightforward hate crime: Swastikas sprayed in and around the New Jersey home of an Indian-American running for Congress earlier this month.

But the vandalism is steeped in religious and ethnic irony.

Image via RNS/Yoli Shwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority

The site where, nearly 2,000 years ago, the Roman army breached the outer walls of ancient Jerusalem, before capturing the city and destroying the Second Jewish Temple, has been discovered, the Israel Antiquities Authority says.

Archaeologists made the discovery last winter, during an exploratory survey at a future construction site, the IAA said on Oct. 20.

Image via RNS/Brian Pellot

Amazigh was one of 125 queer Muslim activists and allies who came together for The Inner Circle’s seven-day Annual International Retreat, from Oct. 14 to Oct. 21, in South Africa. The gathering focused on “building a movement towards an all-inclusive and compassion-centered Islam,” a mammoth task for attendees like Amazigh who live in countries where homosexuality and transgender expression are often taboo and criminalized.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Ki Price

Scholars of Dylan — and they are legion, with many offering entire courses on the singer’s record catalog — have long highlighted the religious imagery of his work. From Old Testament references in “All Along the Watchtower” (1967) and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” (1976) to the New Testament basis of “Gotta Serve Somebody” (1979) and the spiritual yearning of “Thunder on the Mountain” (2006), Dylan’s lyrics and music have long reflected his own restless, seeking soul.

Image via RNS/Jim Forest/Flickr Commons

In the two decades since his death from a heart attack at age 64, Nouwen’s popularity and influence have spawned at least five biographies. His reflections on faith, loneliness, vulnerability, love, prayer, social justice, and sexuality have won over modern audiences.

But this beloved priest had an even more intimate side, known only to those who corresponded with him privately.

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What’s your number?

It’s not a pickup line. At least, it wasn’t at the pre-conference portion of an event called “Why Christian?,” which was back for its second year at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago.

No, this inquiry is actually just a standard part of the Enneagram, an ancient personality typing system that recently has exploded in popularity in Christian circles.

Image via RNS/The Star-Ledger/John O'Boyle

The Internal Revenue Service has reclassified one of the most famous Christian organizations, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

At the request of the Graham organization, the IRS changed its tax status from a nonprofit to an “association of churches,” The NonProfit Times reported on Sept. 26. The change was made last November.

The change means the 66-year-old Christian organization no longer has to file what the IRS calls Form 990, a public statement of its financial information, including salaries for top officials. It will continue to publish an annual financial report, available to the public on its website.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

Mother Teresa, the tiny nun who devoted her life to the poor, was declared a saint by Pope Francis at the Vatican as he celebrated her “daring and courage,” and described her as a role model for all in his year of mercy.

At least 120,000 people crowded a sun-drenched St. Peter’s Square for the canonization of the acclaimed nun who may have worked in the slums of Kolkata but was a force to be reckoned with by political and religious leaders around the world.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Jonathan Bachman

No matter where we are, the climate crisis is not far from home.

For some time it has largely been the world’s most vulnerable, in the global south, bearing the brunt of suffering and climate-induced devastation. Those who have the power to change things have so far all but ignored “the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth,” as Pope Francis wrote in his encyclical a little over a year ago.

But just this past month in the United States — one of the world’s wealthiest nations — we have seen historic droughts, unprecedented floods in Louisiana, and wildfires in California, killing many and displacing tens of thousands.

Image via Gert Hochmuth/

In 1947 and 1948, respectively, Christian scholars C.S. Lewis and Reinhold Niebuhr appeared on the cover of Time magazine.

Since then, commentators have bemoaned the disappearance of the Christian intellectual.

Powerful social changes are behind the apparent decline: increasing pluralism, secularization, the decline of Protestant hegemony, and the supposed triumph of science over faith as the best way to understand the modern world.

Image via RNS/Purpose Hotel

Photography has taken Jeremy Cowart around the world.

Cowart — recently featured in Christianity Today’s “Makers” issue and named the “Most Influential Photographer on the Web” by The Huffington Post — has photographed the Passion World Tour in 2008 and Britney Spears’ Circus World Tour in 2009.

He’s photographed Haitians after the 2010 earthquake, holding pieces of debris on which they’d written their thoughts and prayers, for a photo project that later was displayed at the United Nations.

And he’s stayed at a lot of hotels. Which got him thinking: What if a hotel could do more than just provide a place to stay for a night?

Dawn Araujo-Hawkins 05-02-2016

IN FALL 1884, the congregation that became Temple Israel opened its doors as the first Jewish synagogue in the state of Nebraska. From its inception, Temple Israel was a Reform congregation, a theologically progressive denomination that stresses the social justice imperatives of Judaism. Yet the early members of Temple Israel included not just Reform Jews, but Conservative and Orthodox Jews as well; navigating these interdenominational relationships would prove to be a significant part of the congregation’s early development.

Fast forward 130 years and Temple Israel is one of three houses of worship embarking on a unique interfaith partnership: a single campus in west Omaha that will house a Jewish synagogue, a Muslim mosque, a Christian church, and a fourth building for interfaith fellowship.

Aryeh Azriel, Temple Israel’s senior rabbi, planted the seeds for this project, known as the Tri-Faith Initiative, in 2006 when he reached out to the American Muslim Institute, another local religious community that was looking to construct a new building.

“The original idea started as a result of looking for a partnership in sharing parking lots,” Azriel told Sojourners.

The two communities had forged a relationship in 2001 when, following the Sept. 11 attacks, Azriel led members of Temple Israel in encircling a local mosque to protect it from the Islamophobic attacks they were seeing in the national news.

Syed Mohiuddin, president of the American Muslim Institute, agreed to the partnership; he liked the idea of the two religious groups sharing a parking lot with each other rather than with retail stores or other commercial development. However, it didn’t take long for the two communities to realize the project had greater potential than a shared parking lot. If they could find Christians willing to join them, they could build a shared campus for all three Abrahamic faiths, the first such campus in the world—at least to their knowledge.

the Web Editors 02-18-2016

A reporter asked Pope Francis, "Can a good catholic vote for this man [Trump]?" And Francis answered honestly.

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian," said Francis.

Although Francis did not directly refer to Trump, his implication is fairly clear, and strong.

Image via REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/RNS

Catholic Charities is giving out water and food. The Flint Jewish Federation is collecting water and water filters. And the Michigan Muslim Community Council has distributed more than 120,000 bottles of clean water for Flint, Mich. But these faith organizations are also focused on a longer-term goal: to make sure the impoverished city, where President Obama last weekend declared a state of emergency over its poisoned water, is never so neglected again.

Kaeley McEvoy 12-01-2015

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Hate crimes in America dipped across the board in 2014, except in the category of anti-Muslim crimes, which rose about 14 percent over the prior year. Given the barbaric Islamic State attacks in Paris last week and elsewhere recently, that latter trend seems destined to accelerate.

The presence of hate crimes against Muslims is no new phenomenon. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, there typically recorded between 20-30 hate crime against Muslims per year and after 2001 that number rose to nearly 500.

This summer, we saw the murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, N.C. On Nov. 15 in London, a man pushed a Muslim woman into an oncoming underground train. And on Thanksgiving Day, a man in a taxicab in Pittsburgh, Pa., shot his driver in the back for being Muslim.

These incidents do not need to be listed as statistics to validate reality but they do need to be heard.

Cindy Brandt 07-24-2015

Not too long after being introduced to John 3:16, I was taught Psalm 139:13: “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Now that I was a Christian, it was important I understood that Christians are anti-abortion, that life begins at conception, and that terminating life is nothing short of murder. Throughout college, I carried the cause of the pro-life movement in a symbol tacked on my school bag: a miniature pair of feet, a replica of a 10-week old baby in utero, intricately shaped in sterling silver.

I didn’t think about it. I never HAD to think about it, having never carried an unwanted pregnancy. For me, the pro-life movement was simple, uncomplicated, pretty, and as sanitized as a small silver ornament. That is, until I moved to China, a country well known for its high rate of abortions — including forced abortions, particularly of baby girls.

Photo via beboy /

Photo via beboy /

A new report mapping the Catholic Church’s more than 1.2 billion souls — on track to reach 1.64 billion by 2050 — holds some surprises.

And not all bode well for the church’s future as it faces major demographic and social shifts.

Global Catholicism: Trends & Forecasts,” released June 1 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, looks at seven regions of the world. It wraps the United States, Mexico, and Canada in with Central and South America as simply the Americas.

Burns Strider 04-08-2015
Photo via REUTERS / Carlo Allegri / RNS

Former first lady Hillary Clinton. Photo via REUTERS / Carlo Allegri / RNS

Late on a Saturday night in 2012, I received word from my sister in Mississippi that my mamma had passed away. My home was silent as my wife and two boys slept upstairs. I was reading when the sad call came.

I woke my wife to tell her; we sat on the edge of the bed and hugged. In my sadness, around midnight, I started cleaning the kitchen, likely because my mamma was always cleaning something. I also reached out to two friends.

It was within minutes that I heard back from Hillary.

Secretary Clinton joined me in my heartbreak, reminding me that she could share the pain because of the fairly recent loss of her own mother. She also told me to get to Mississippi, be with my family, and take all the time I needed — because my work in Washington paled in comparison to remembering and mourning my mom and being with family.

My family and I drove home, deeper and deeper into my Southern motherland, to bury my mom. My siblings had asked me to speak for the family at the funeral, so I rode shotgun and wrote while my wife, Karen, drove.

Along the way, drafting what I consider the most important talk of my life, I again reached out to Secretary Clinton, who was engaged in one of the most grueling and intense schedules that any secretary of state had undertaken.

Even so, she found the time to offer suggestions and talk me through this most personal task.


The Editors 04-01-2015

Peaceful Neighbor: Discovering the Countercultural Mister Rogers by Michael G. Long / The Mask You Live In by Representation Project / Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace by Patricia Raybon / Leave Some Things Behind by the Steel Wheels 

“Unchurched Adults Are More Likely To Be…,” graphic courtesy of Barna Group/RNS.

If you’re dismayed that one in five Americans (20 percent) are “nones” — people who claim no particular religious identity — brace yourself.

How does 38 percent sound?

That’s what religion researcher David Kinnaman calculates when he adds “the unchurched, the never-churched and the skeptics” to the nones.

He calls his new category “churchless,” the same title Kinnaman has given his new book. By his count, roughly four in 10 people living in the continental United States are actually “post-Christian” and “essentially secular in belief and practice.”

If asked, the “churchless” would likely check the “Christian” box on a survey, even though they may not have darkened the door of a church in years.

Kinnaman, president of the California-based Barna Group, slides them into this new category based on 15 measures of identity, belief and practice in more than 23,000 interviews in 20 surveys.

The research looked at church worship attendance and participation, views about the Bible, God and Jesus, and more to see whether folks were actually tied to Christian life in a meaningful way or tied more by habit or personal history.