Bob Considine 03-05-2012

American flag photo by Christopher Penler,

HIGHLAND PARK, N.J. — Saul Timisela was ordered to report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Newark early on the morning of March 1 to be deported.

Instead, the Indonesian Christian took sanctuary at the Reformed Church of Highland Park, where the Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale is trying to save a group of Indonesian refugees who fled their country to escape religious persecution more than a decade ago.

Timisela may have felt safe given ICE's historical reticence to raid churches where illegal immigrants are being harbored. But at the same time, he was sorry to say goodbye to his wife of 10 years — another Indonesian Christian who's also in hiding because she has overstayed her visa and does not have an open case with the immigration agency.

Christian Piatt 03-04-2012
Face of Jesus from an old cemetery statue. Photo by Brasiliao/

Face of Jesus from an old cemetery statue. Photo by Brasiliao/

There was a movement back in the 1960s that many of us only have read about, while others vividly remember. Philosophers and theologians explored what was labeled the “Death of God” movement. Interest in the subject has re-emerged particularly as of late because William Hamilton, one of the more prominent voices in the Death of God movement, diedlast week  at age 87.

The movement inspired TIME Magazine’s now-famous cover (seen here) in 1966, raising the question in the public forum: Is God Dead? The cover has since been listed by the Los Angeles Times as one of the “Ten Covers that Shook the World.”

Hamilton’s faith was shaken during his teenage years when three of his friends were making a homemade pipe bomb. The project went wrong and detonated, killing two of the three boys.

The two killed were Christians. The lone survivor, an atheist.

Hamilton’s crisis of faith centered around a theological concept known as theodicy, which explores the question: why do bad things happen to good people? More specifically, why does misfortune seem to befall the faithful, while those lacking faith enjoy what seems to be a providential hall pass?

Jack Palmer 03-02-2012
Photo by Kevin Carden /

Photo by Kevin Carden /

A headline from Reuters stopped me in my tracks earlier this week.

It read, ‘"Pray for us" say Syria rebels as army closes in’." I was struck by how moving I found this statement, this plea.

I do my best to remember places of conflict and strife in my prayers, but very rarely have I been petitioned to pray from a conflict situation by those in the middle of the conflict. It may be a strange reaction on my part to conflate a headline from a news report to be a direct request for my prayers, but that is how I responded when I read it.

“Pray for me” is not an abstract or passive statement. When we are asked to pray for someone, or a group of people, we are charged to bring their need or suffering to God.

Christian Piatt 03-02-2012
PregMANcy: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

PregMANcy: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

We're delighted to share with you an excerpt from Christian Piatt's forthcoming (April 1) memoir, PregMANcy: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date:

“Screw it.”

These two words are what started the baby ball rolling in the Piatt household, back in January. After months of counseling, discernment, weepy nights and sleepless mornings, I submitted, succumbed, caved in like the roof of a Geo convertible.

I know “screw it” is an ironic choice of words, considering the circumstances. I also think it’s sadistically ironic that we men are biologically tuned to love sex so much, yet we’re usually the ones who freak out the most about the byproduct. I’m a typical male, visually aroused by anything vaguely resembling a boob or a booty. Also, working from home and sharing responsibility with my wife for the daily development of our four-year-old son, Mattias, makes me somewhat abnormal. And it’s this shared responsibility, I think, that makes having another kid such a big deal for me.

Nancy Haught 03-02-2012

PORTLAND, Ore. — William Hamilton, the retired theologian who declared in the 1960s that God was dead, died Tuesday in his downtown Portland apartment. He was 87.
Hamilton said he'd been haunted by questions about God since he was a teenager. Years later, when his conclusion was published in the April 8, 1966, edition of TIME Magazine, he found himself at the center of a theological storm.
TIME christened the new movement "radical theology," and Hamilton, one of its key figures, received death threats and inspired angry letters to the editor. He lost his endowed chair as a professor of theology at what was then Colgate Rochester Divinity School in 1967.

Photo via Getty Images.

Photo via Getty Images.

The Democratic sweep of Congress in 2006 and President Obama's election in 2008 convinced many people the religious right had been defeated and discredited. They believed it was time to "move on," a ubiquitous but dangerous phrase that often blinds people to unpleasant realities.

The truth, however, is that the religious right, Christian Reconstructionism and Dominionism have never gone away. And now they're back — "big time," as Dick Cheney might say.

In the 2012 presidential election, the Christocrats are out in force on many fronts: trying to eliminate prenatal care and all forms of contraception; defunding breast cancer screening; opposing civil rights for same-sex couples; contesting evolution and substituting creationism in public schools; denying the reality of global climate change; and discrediting the "lame stream media."

Brendan Kirby 02-29-2012
Justice Roy Moore holds a Bible while testifying in a hearing. Via Getty Images.

Justice Roy Moore holds a Bible while testifying in a hearing, 2004. Via Getty Images.

MOBILE, Ala. — You might think a candidate's ouster from the post he is seeking to regain would play a central role in a statewide election.
Yet Republican Roy Moore's forced exit, almost a decade ago, as Alabama's chief justice over a Ten Commandments monument seems only a murmur on the campaign trail.
Voters don't often ask about it, and the other two candidates in the March GOP primary hardly ever talk about it.
Moore plunged Alabama into a showdown in 2003 when he erected a 5,280-pound granite monument to the Ten Commandments in the Alabama judicial building in Montgomery. A federal judge declared the monument to be a violation of the separation of church and state and ordered Moore to remove it.
When Moore refused, a special panel of retired state judges voted unanimously to remove him from office for violating a higher-court order.

Franklin Graham by Anthony Correia /

Franklin Graham by Anthony Correia /

Evangelist Franklin Graham has apologized to President Obama for questioning his Christian faith and said religion has "nothing to do" with Graham's decision not to support Obama's re-election.
Graham's Tuesday apology came after a group of prominent black religious leaders criticized the evangelist for saying he did not know whether Obama is a Christian and suggesting that Islamic law considers him to be a Muslim.
Graham, president of the relief organization Samaritan's Purse and the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, said he now accepts Obama's declarations that he is a Christian.
"I regret any comments I have ever made which may have cast any doubt on the personal faith of our president, Mr. Obama," he said in a statement.

Christian Piatt 02-28-2012
Image by Eugenio Marongiu/Shutterstock

Image by Eugenio Marongiu/Shutterstock

The world has never been short on doomsday prophets, intent on predicting the end of days. And it has reached fetishist proportions this year with the end of the Mayan calendar.

See, that’s why I never buy paper calendars. They always end, and I don’t want to be the one responsible for Armageddon.

But the Mayans and their Johnny-come-lately adherents aren’t the only ones. Harold Camping has predicted the end a few times, most of which haven’t worked out so well. But each time he adds a little footnote as to why he was a little off, but that the next prediction REALLY is the big one, so be ready.

I’m not entirely sure why we’re so obsessed with trying to know when everything will come to a grinding halt. Christians in particular have been warned by Jesus himself not to occupy our hearts and minds with such things. So how come we can’t seem to stop trying to figure it out?

Christian Piatt 02-27-2012
(Bible image titled "Getting the Message" by JustASC/Shutterstock.)

(Bible image titled "Getting the Message" by JustASC/Shutterstock.)

It’s bad enough when Christians sit silently by while LGBTQ folks are marginalized, ridiculed, abused, raped or even killed for who they are.

It’s another when Christians actively engage in the exclusion of people based on their identity or orientation.

And then there’s John Piper.

It seems Piper has a Twitter problem. Maybe he doesn’t see it as such, because with fewer than 140 characters, he can stir up quite a storm of controversy. But considering the damage that can be done with so few words, I think it is a significant problem.

Cathleen Falsani 02-21-2012
Obama at an April 4, 2004 Palm Sunday mass in Chicago. Via Getty Images.

Obama pictured at Palm Sunday mass in Chicago where Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke, April 4, 2004. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: At 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 27, 2004, when I was the religion reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, I met then-State Sen. Barack Obama at Café Baci, a small coffee shop at 330 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago, for an interview about his faith. Our conversation took place a few days after he’d clinched the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat that he eventually won, and four months before he’d be formally introduced to the rest of the nation during his famous keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Conventio.

We spoke for more than an hour. He came alone. He answered everything I asked without notes or hesitation. The profile of Obama that grew from the interview at Cafe Baci became the first in a series in the
Sun-Times called “The God Factor,” which would eventually became my first book, The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People, in which Obama and 31 other high-profile “culture shapers” — including Bono of U2, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, the author Anne Rice and President George W. Bush's speechwriter Michael Gerson — are profiled.

Because of the seemingly evergreen interest in President Obama’s faith and spiritual predilections, and because that 2004 interview remains the longest and most in-depth he’s granted publicly about his faith, I thought it might be helpful to share the transcript of our conversation — uncut and in its entirety — here on
God’s Politics.

~ Cathleen Falsani

Roy Hoffman 02-17-2012
The Rev. Jerry Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church Fairhope, Ala. RNS photo by

The Rev. Jerry Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church Fairhope, Ala. RNS photo by Bill Starling/The Press-Register.

FAIRHOPE, Ala. — For the Rev. Jerry Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church of Fairhope, being Southern Baptist is a defining aspect of life.

He embraces the denomination's conservative social values, extols its evangelism — "We reach out to people instead of waiting for them to come to us" — and identifies with its name.

The Rev. Jerry Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church Fairhope, Ala., has struggled with whether the Southern Baptist Convention should change its name to reflect greater geographic diversity.

Christian Piatt 02-17-2012
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Fans show their support for Jeremy Lin during the game against the Timberwolves 2/11/12.By David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

No, he doesn't go down on one knee every time he nails a dunk or a perimeter shot. And as far as I know, he’s not building any hospitals in far-off countries. But the 23-year-old point guard for the New York Knicks suddenly finds himself in a spotlight familiar enough to Tebow that the pair should consider a face-to-face lunch to compare notes.

Like Tim Tebow, Jeremy Lin “rode the pine” as a bench-warmer for years. Unlike the star quarterback, Lin was cut by two other NBA teams before landing a supporting role on the Knicks bench.

So why do we know about him all of a sudden? Although Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni would love to claim credit, he admits the only reason the American-born player of Taiwanese parents got his shot was because so many players ahead of him were injured.

Then, as if storing up his energy for months in anticipation of his big break, Lin lit up scoreboards, followed by sports talk shows and endorsement deals. Eleven days ago, he was a relative nobody. But it seems all it takes is leading your team to a six-game winning streak, posting 38 points against Kobe Bryant and snagging a buzzer-beater three-pointer against the Raptors to get the public’s attention.

So long Tebowmania; enter “Linsanity.”

the Web Editors 02-16-2012
Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

Tony Perkins speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in DC last week. Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, New York faith leaders, and members of Faithful America  delivered a petition with 20,000 signatures to MSNBC studios in New York City's Rockefeller Center on Tuesday asking that the network stop inviting Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on its programs as a "Christian" spokesman.

the Web Editors 02-16-2012
No Room at the Inn. Image via Wylio,

No Room at the Inn. Image via Wylio,

LONDON — Britain's Court of Appeal has ordered a pair of Christian innkeepers to pay 3,600 pounds ($5,800) in damages to a gay couple that was told they could not share a room in the couple's guesthouse.

The three-judge panel rejected an appeal by the innkeepers, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, in their conviction of telling Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy they could not share a double room.

The court in London told the couple, who ran the Chymorvah House in Cornwall, England, to pay the penalty.

Tourists pray at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Via Wylio

Pilgrims and tourists pray at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Via Wylio

JERUSALEM — Every year, thousands of Americans travel abroad for less-expensive fertility treatments, hip replacements and other medical procedures. Now, an Israel-based tourism company is offering a package that combines medical care with a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. 

IsraMedica plans to unveil the initiative Thursday (Feb. 16) at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, Tenn.  

Eli Knoller, the company's vice president of operations, said IsraMedica already brings about 6,000 nonmedical tourists to Israel every year, the majority of them Christian pilgrims.

Jack Palmer 02-15-2012

Two new polls have been released this week that have caught the eye – one from The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the second from Rasmussen. Both show shifts in the number of people supporting GOP Presidential Candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, and some rather large shifts at that.

Caroline Langston 02-15-2012

According to, the teen heart-throb appeared in episode #1921,"In A Quiet Place" in 1970.

The little daughter, though, is as enchanted by the white boy as much as he is as annoyed by her, and speaks to him cheerfully despite his laconic responses.

It is she who is the catalyst for the plot’s action: Just as the boy is being ever more sucked into bad company and down the wrong road, something happens to the little girl. Either she’s hit by a car, or threatened by the (white) thugs he’s been hanging out with—of this, I have no memory.

What I do remember is, at the moment the little girl is hurt, the dormant moral impulses of the white boy spring into action. Finally, he sees in the girl a fellow human being, and in that moment becomes one himself.

He holds her in a stark reverse pietà that is burned into my memory: when the girl is saved, he, too is saved, and he and she both return home, to the home that is now, in spiritual truth, both theirs.

I’ve scoured this story in my memory for years—is it just another representative of a “Magic Negro” narrative? Yes—but even by dint of sophisticated analysis, the story continues to yield up its power to me. It made me want the racial chasm all around me to be healed, but even more (I identified, you see, with that angry white teenaged boy), it convinced me of the reality of sin, my need to be redeemed.

And it also convinced me of the reality of mysterious, unexpected grace.

Unexpected grace was exactly what I found when at last, at the age of 43, I decided to go searching for that program, and that episode.

Cathleen Falsani 02-14-2012
"Get Together in the Village." Image via Wylio,

"Get Together in the Village." Image via Wylio,

"You and I have the power to change someone’s day. And so I am going to challenge you, on this Valentine’s Day, to not only tell family members you love them, but also others whom you care for. 

"In a world where people are beat up and put down, God gives us the ability to completely turn negativity, criticism and rude opinions around. “Encourage one another and build each other up,” says 1 Thessalonians 5;11. That is one of the most significant verses in all the Bible because when we do this it sets off a chain reaction of blessing.” You become the voice of God’s mercy and grace in the lives of others."

Barry Carter 02-14-2012

Whitney Houston sings at a 2011 pre-Grammy Awards event. Photo via Getty Images.

Everybody has a favorite Whitney Houston song, a memory that makes them stand still and think about how this soulful pop superstar made them feel when they heard her sing.
Remember the chill when she sang the national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl, or how "I'm Every Woman" empowered women, providing confidence and inspiration?
But anyone who knew Houston understands that her talent came from one place, the God she served at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. This is where it all started for its daughter, where she was the darling of the choir as a child who left people speechless, belting out gospel songs and hymns.
What she did through song on Sunday mornings, the members of her home church returned the favor on Sunday (Feb. 12) the only way they know how. They prayed.
They prayed for Emily Cissy Houston, Houston's mother, the minister of music for 54 years at the church.