ReligionNewsBlog.com, Apr. 15, 2004
[Books] "Left Behind" and "The Da Vinci Code": Facts conveyed through fiction, or fictional facts?
The lesson from this week's best-seller list is simple: God sells. But what worries some scholars is that the hottest religious books depart from traditional Christian teaching or distort the faith's origins. The latest pulse-pounder in the "Left Behind" series about the end of the world -- "Glorious Appearing" -- couldn't have appeared more gloriously, at No. 1 on the fiction list of Publishers Weekly. It edges out another religion-themed novel, "The Da Vinci Code," which has ranked among the top three for 54 straight weeks. American's fiction market has never seen such a juxtaposition, says Publishers Weekly religion editor Lynn Garrett. Combined with the success of Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" -- now eighth on the U.S. all-time box office list -- it makes an obvious statement. [...] Yet the success of the books troubles some critics, largely because the authors have made unusual claims that -- though they employ fiction -- what they're writing is true.
[Jehovah's Witnesses] Court Grants Divorce to Husband of Jehovah's Witness
The Seoul Family Court on Wednesday ruled in favor of a husband who sought a divorce, saying his wife's religious zeal and uncompromising attitude ruined their marriage. Kim Yeong-taek, 35, was granted a divorce and custody of their three-year-old son. His wife, a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses, must also pay legal costs. [That's the entire item...]
[Synanon] Newspaper to celebrate 25th anniversary of its Pulitzer
This Friday, April 16, will be the 25th anniversary of The Point Reyes Light's winning a Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service. It was the fourth time in the 61-year history of the Pulitzers that a prize in any division had gone to a weekly newspaper instead of a daily. The prize was for an expose of the Synanon cult, which was then headquartered in Marshall.
[Scams] Police warn area Internet users of new twist to old scam
Police are warning of new versions of the Nigerian advance-fee scam that Salisbury residents recently participated in unwillingly. Rather than the traditional e-mail or letter promising big profits in exchange for help moving large sums of money, scammers now use chat rooms and develop relationships with their targets, said Salisbury Police Detective Tom Wilsey. And the victims are used as the middle man rather than the source of the money.
[Islam] Muslim Student Recants 'Osama' Charge, Stands By Beating Story
A seventh-grade student at Congress Middle School claimed that four boys cornered her in the hallway, made derogatory remarks about her Muslim heritage, pulled at her hijab, or headscarf, and called her "Osama" as they beat her across the face with a belt. On Thursday, the Palm Beach Post reported that when investigators from the Palm Beach County School Board interviewed the girl this week, she denied that any of the boys called her Osama a reference to al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden. The paper said the unnamed girl's family stands by the rest of the story, however, insisting the girl was targeted because of her Muslim headscarf and harassed. "It appears that somebody embellished the story," school district spokesman Nat Harrington told the Post. "This greatly concerns us. We want to get at the facts."
[Hate Groups] Hale guard went to cops over supremacist material
A federal informant who took an oath to white supremacist Matthew Hale as part of his undercover efforts testified Wednesday he agreed to help the FBI after a Hale follower tried to get him to pass out racist literature at a Chicago public school where he worked.
[Love Israel Family] Counterculture group settles in
A communal-living group that some people call a cult is moving from the Seattle area to a rural site on the Columbia River 100 miles north of Spokane. The Love Israel Family has set up tents on 52 acres near China Bend, a scenic river bench about 10 miles south of the U.S.-Canadian border in Stevens County. Members of the group -- estimates range from 25 to 50 -- are moving to northeastern Washington after losing control of their 300-acre ranch near Arlington, Wash., amid financial collapse.
[Michael Jackson] New Jackson accuser "recovered" memories
A new sexual molestation investigation of singer Michael Jackson has been prompted by claims brought by an 18-year-old said to have recovered repressed memories of an assault over a decade ago, sources close to the case say. [...] The sources said that Beverly Hills psychiatrist Carole Lieberman, who filed a child abuse complaint last year with Santa Barbara County Protective Services against the pop singer, counselled the new victim and helped him remember the alleged assault. The sources also said that feminist attorney Gloria Allred, a prominent critic of Jackson's lifestyle, was also involved in bringing the recent complaint to police. [...] "In my opinion, one has to be incredibly suspect of recovered memory," Beverly Hills psychiatrist Dr. Howard Shapiro told Reuters.
[Hate Groups] Rights group acted legally to acquire racist books, official says
Several accusations that the Montana Human Rights Network bought stolen books from a former member of the racist World Church of the Creator are unfounded, a law enforcement official said this week. And there's a chance that the racist group has no legal claim to the books anyway because the Southern Poverty Law Center won $1 million of the group's assets in a 1994 U.S. District Court judgment, said Heidi Beirich of the center. The books in question - some 4,100 white supremacist books worth $41,000 - were sold several months ago to the Montana Human Rights Network by a defector from the organization for $300. The defector - who was second in command of the Montana faction of The World Church of the Creator when he sold the books - left the group shortly after selling the stash.
[Religion Trends] Ireland's changing religious face
New figures on religious faith in the Republic of Ireland show the Roman Catholic Church's dominant position slipping slightly. Ireland is still one of Europe's most observant Catholic countries. But a census suggests that now less than 90% of the population call themselves Roman Catholic. For the first time since Irish independence from Britain more than 80 years ago, the numbers of the main Protestant denominations have grown.
[Islam] U.S. overturns Muslim chaplain's pornography conviction
A Muslim chaplain who ministered to detainees in Guantanamo Bay had his conviction for downloading pornography overturned on Wednesday. Capt. James Yee made headlines in the fall of 2003 when he was accused of mishandling classified information and being involved in an espionage ring. Those charges were later dropped, but the military continued to pursue allegations that Yee downloaded pornography and was an adulterer.
The chaplain was eventually convicted on these charges, but appealed the case. On Wednesday, Gen. James T. Hill, commander of the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, announced that though he did not find the legal arguments by Yee's defense team persuasive, he decided to overturn the charges. There will be no mention of the pornography and adultery charges in Yee's military record, he said.
[Media] Mixed Reactions Over Nigeria's Televised Miracles Ban
As the April 30, 2004 deadline given to the electronic media in Nigeria to stop the advertisement of 'unverifiable' miracle healing on television approaches, Nigerians, especially Church leaders are divided on the National Broadcasting Commission's (NBC) decision, to ban the advertisement of miracles on television. A cross-section of Nigerians who spoke on the ban in Lagos were of the opinion that the NBC was right in taking the decision as most of the miracle healings being shown on television were, to say the least, suspect, meant only to deceive gullible Nigerians. To this school of thought, it is good riddance to bad rubbish while the other school believes that whereas there are identifiable charlatans on the pulpit today, it is not the duty of the NBC to point such out by throwing the baby and bath water away. The latter group argues that the decision should be seen as an infringement on the freedom of worship of anyone and explained that it would be wrong to make people believe in false miracles.
[Snake Handlers] Snakebite during service proves fatal to minister
A preacher who refused medical treatment after a rattlesnake bit him during the serpent-handling part of an Easter service has died, authorities said. [...] Long was pastor of a Pentecostal church where members interpret serpent-handling as a form of obedience to God. Snake-handlers believe that when people die of a snakebite they receive during a church service, it was simply their time to go.
[Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins] The Greatest Story Ever Sold
The latest of the "Left Behind" novels, "Glorious Appearing," has been a phenomenal success at the book stores. Its central audience are the estimated 100 million Americans who call themselves evangelical Christians - and their influence on politics is undeniable. In the last election, 40 percent of the votes for George W. Bush came from their ranks. And Hollywood, including the television networks, is also getting the message -- at least the obvious financial message that stories about Jesus, the Bible and belief can generate billions. An example: Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" was again No. 1 at the box office this past Easter weekend. So far, it has grossed more than $350 million. Why this sudden surge of religiosity? In this 60 Minutes Classic, Correspondent Morley Safer went back to two men who've been profiting from the "Left Behind" series for years: Jerry Jenkins and Rev. Tim LaHaye. "I don't think the media had really caught on to what's been going on in the last 30 years in America," says Rev. LaHaye. "An enormous number of people have come to faith in Christ and consider themselves evangelical Christians. And these are the people buying, reading and distributing our books."
[Islam] Dutch Islamic group backs anti-terror vigilance
Dutch Islamic organisation CMO is urging 300 affiliated mosques and Muslim associations to be on the alert for signs of terrorism and fundamentalism. It is also advising them to support the government in its efforts against extremism. During a visit of Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk to the Al Kabir mosque in Amsterdam East - known as the most moderate mosque in the Netherlands - it was confirmed that the CMO will send affiliated mosques and associations an advisory letter this week. Al Kabir's deputy imam, M. Ouled Abdullah, said the Islamic community is concerned by a report from the secret service AIVD that Muslim youth are being recruited for Jihad, or holy war.
[China] Bishop Arrested in China Reported Freed
Jia's detention, which lasted through the Easter holidays, followed the arrest of another Chinese bishop in March. The Vatican protested both arrests. Jia, 69, was ordained a bishop in 1980 and has been imprisoned for a total of about 20 years, according to religious monitoring groups.
[Islam] Amsterdam mosque under investigation
The Public Prosecutor's Office is investigating whether the Amsterdam mosque El Tawheed has committed punishable offences. Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk says if this is the case, the mosque will be prosecuted. Reading material at the mosque has caused concern because it encourages the suppression of women and female genital mutilation. [Entire item. See earlier report here: http://www.religionnewsblog.com/6767-.html]
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