Community | Religions | Spirituality | Inspiration | Culture | Family | Morality 
News & Society
News & Society Tools
Daily Offerings
Search Beliefnet
Sacred Texts


Houses of Worship

Site Map
Home > News & Society
printer friendly
What's your position on anti-sodomy laws?
I oppose anti-sodomy laws.
I support anti-sodomy laws applied only to gay sex.
I support anti-sodomy laws applied to both gay and heterosexual sex.
View Results

Today's Top Picks
The B-Log
Beliefnet's weblog of religion and spirituality in the news and on the internet
By the Editors and Contributing Writers of Beliefnet
After the Rosary, the Stairmaster?
New York-based fitness expert and inspirational author Debbie Mandel has been offering new exercise classes for nuns. The sisters "love it," she told Reuters. The nuns have told her that when they enter a room now, "they evaluate the wall space so they can do wall push-ups."

Mandel is currently writing a book based on the workout titled "Changing Habits: The Sister's Workout." Her nun-specific routine includes an arm exercise she calls the "iron cross" and a stretch named the "Resurrection," according to the New York Post.

"We are expected to be signs of joy and hope," Sister Peggy Tully, 60, told the Post. "But I cannot be joyful without energy, so I work out."

Clothing Co.'s Ganesh Gaffe
A Hindu group is declaring victory over the clothing company American Eagle Outfitters after a dispute about a pair of flip flops the company manufactures. American Hindus Against Defamation protested the company's line of sandals picturing the Hindu god Ganesha. "To have Lord Ganesh on the in-sole of the shoe signifies trampling upon the deity," the group explained. American Eagle apologized to the Hindu community and agreed to remove the flip flops from its stores.

In 2000, AHAD took on toilet-seat maker Sittin' Pretty, which sold seats with images of Lord Ganesha and the goddess Kali.

Preventing Bad Blood Over AIDS
President Bush introduced his $15 billion effort to battle AIDS today, finishing with an allusion to the parable of the Good Samaritan. "When we see the wounded traveler on the road to Jericho," he said, "America will not pass to the other side of the road." (See Luke 10: 25-37.)

It was an interesting closing sentiment, since some evangelical Christians have complained about the program, in part because it will direct some money to groups that advocate abortions. "The AIDS lobby will be very happy, the homosexual lobby will be very happy, the condom crowd will be happy, the Planned Parenthood folks will be happy," Ken Connor of the Family Research Council had warned earlier. "That's not the president's base."

By putting such a Christian cast on the proposal--and surrounding himself at the rally with such Christian luminaries as Franklin Graham, Chuck Colson and James Dobson--Bush served to both admonish and reassure those who view the AIDS program as un-Christian.

Are Mormons the Most Generous Americans?
A recent study of charitable giving in the U.S. ranked the Salt Lake City area as the most generous metropolitan area in the country, due in large part to Mormon tithing. Mormons are required to give 10% of their income to the church. The Chronicle of Philanthropy said Salt Lake's high rank was due not only to the tithe, but also to additional Mormon giving, including the monthly "fast offering." Latter-day Saints give up two consecutive meals on the first Sunday of each month, then donate the money they would have spent eating to the church. The study found that the average resident in the Salt Lake City-Ogden area, where about half the population is Mormon, donated 14.9% of their discretionary income (income after housing, taxes, food, and basic living expenses) to charity.

But the Mormon tithe isn't good news for all Utah-based charities. The Chronicle reports that non-profits like the Utah Opera and the Salt Lake City United Way feel stretched because it's difficult for area residents to give on top of the tithe. "When you are feeding so many more mouths, and doing a tithing off the top, there isn't the same ability to contribute," Utah Opera director Anne Ewers told the Chronicle.

"I Now Pronounce Thee"... Not So Fast
If you want a Unitarian Universalist minister to preside at your wedding, be prepared to check on whether you need another public official to sign the marriage license. More than a dozen Unitarian Universalist ministers, including UUA president Rev. William G. Sinkford, have pledged not to sign marriage certificates for heterosexual couples until same-sex marriages are legalized in their state. One minister, the Rev. David Pettee, wrote, "To me, the seemingly innocent and neutral act of signing a marriage license actually represents a silent collusion with the state, which extends the numerous privileges of marriage only to heterosexual couples." The movement is catching on with clergy of other denominations too, through a pledge distributed by the Massachusetts-based Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry.

Ministers who have signed the pledge are happy to bless unions, regardless of the couple’s gender, but refuse to act as "agents of the state" in what they consider a discriminatory action.

No Peace on Pascha
As usual, there's sparring in the Holy Land--but this time it's between Greek Orthodox and Armenian Christians. After last year's celebration of Pascha, or Orthodox Easter, turned violent, authorities in Jerusalem have limited attendance at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher this Sunday to a few hundred for a celebration that usually attracts 10,000 worshippers. Police say the Holy Fire ceremony, in which lit candles are passed quickly through the crowd, could be too dangerous.

The ceremony turned into a brawl last year when the Greek Patriarch and the Armenian representative could not agree on who was supposed to exit the basilica's Chamber of the Tomb first. The more prominent warring parties in the Middle East, of course, don't have this problem since they rarely enter the same room.

Can Catholic Pols Be Pro-Choice?
Earlier this month, the Washington, D.C.-based magazine The Weekly Standard reported that Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Carlson of South Dakota had sent a letter to the state's Democratic Senator Tom Daschle--the minority leader of the Senate—asking him to stop referring to himself as a Catholic in his official literature. The cause, one assumes, is Daschle's pro-choice stand on abortion, about which he and Carlson tussled publicly in 1997.

The Standard's update on the story notes that the bishop has invited people to "pray for the senator's conversion," but that it wasn't "appropriate for me to discuss my pastoral relationship with the senator." Daschle, for his part, added, "I have been a Catholic all my life, and I will remain one."

American Catholic bishops are clearly moving to close the loophole, famously articulated by New York's former Gov. Mario Cuomo, by which Catholic politicians oppose abortion personally but support laws allowing women to have abortions if they choose. (Read Beliefnet columnist Andrew Greeley's view of the situation here.) Apparently emboldened by a "Doctrinal Note" issued in January by the Vatican, Bishop William Weigand of Sacramento recently criticized California Gov. Gray Davis's "pro-choice Catholicism."

The intended secrecy of Carlson's letter to Daschle, and his talk of "pastoral relationship" suggest the bishop is trying to pull the senator in, not cast him out, of the fold. Nevertheless, the prospect of a bishop removing a politician's Catholic bona fides will certainly grab attention in Congress, where Catholics easily outnumber adherents of any other denomination.

Would Santorum Ban Adultery?
Does Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum want heterosexual adultery made illegal? Or just gay sex? Or are his comments being taken out of context?

In an official statement about his April 7 interview with the Associated Press, the Pennsylvania senator, a member of the Republican leadership, said his "comments should not be misconstrued in any way as a statement on individual lifestyles."

The AP has now released the transcript of the interview so you can judge for yourself. The key line: "I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships." He seems to say he supports anti-sodomy laws that prohibit gay sex (and oral sex for everyone else, for that matter).

Conservative gay writer Andrew Sullivan argues that Santorum's "subsequent comments also strongly imply that he would allow the cops to come into private homes to police heterosexual adultery as well. Or, in Santorum's world, the cops could enter someone's house to see whether a man was having sex with two women or more than two women on a continuous basis (that would be private "bigamy" or "polygamy")... I don't know about you, but this vision of what should constitute government power in a free society worries the bejeezus out of me."

Gary Bauer, the former presidential candidate and Beliefnet contributor, defended Santorum: "I think that while some elites may be upset by those comments, they're pretty much in the mainstream of where most of the country is."

Metaphysical Soundbyte Master
The Reverend Eric Butterworth, who died last Thursday at age 86, was for more than 50 years one of the leading exponents of New Thought, a century-old spiritual philosophy of positive thinking that spawned such religions as Unity, Religious Science (Science of Mind), Divine Science, and a host of individual approaches to spiritual awareness. (An active New Thought discussion board appears on Beliefnet.) Butterworth, who was ordained in the Unity Church, preached at New York City's Lincoln Center, basing his message on Jesus's words, "The Kingdom of God is within you." His central teaching--that you can change your life by changing your thoughts--influenced New Age philosophies as well.

Butterworth wrote 16 books, including "Discover the Power Within You" (an Oprah "classic" book club selection). A master of the metaphysical soundbyte, he called sin "Self-Imposed Nonsense" and stated, "Our job is not to set things right but to see them right." His last sermon was delivered on Easter Sunday by his wife Olga three days after his death. Characteristically, he explained that the image of eternal life and resurrection already exists within us.

They Get $20,000 if They Change It to Tasteless-soy-patty-burg
The animal-rights group PETA has offered $15,000 to Hamburg, N.Y. if only the town near Buffalo will rename itself Veggieburg. In 1996, PETA asked the Hudson Valley, N.Y. town of Fishkill to change its name to Fishsave. For the record, a PETA spokesman says the current offer is "as serious as a heart attack."

Do the 'Matzahrena?'
Jews eat matzah on Passover because the Torah instructs: "You shall eat nothing leavened, in all your settlements you shall eat unleavened bread. (Exodus 12:20)" But the rabbis couldn't have predicted that the "bread of affliction" would eventually inspire a line of holiday-specific toys, clothing, and accessories. Passover doesn't end till the 25th, so there are still a few days to stock up on items like The Dancing Matzahman, a doll who "loves shaking his bod to 'The Matzahrena.'"

The same online Passover store also offers matzah boxers, and a company called Matzoh Ball Soup offers a complete set of soup gear, including a matzah ball soup wall clock and a matzah ball soup camisole.

Church Gets Tough on Ice Cream
Christian groups have given a cold shoulder to a German company's "Seven Deadly Sins" ice cream bars. Langnese brand Magnum bars are now offered in seven tempting "Deadly Sins" flavors: Envy is pistachio green, Lust is creamy vanilla with pink strawberry icing, and so on. Devil horns and a forked tail have been added to the M of the word Magnum on the wrapper.

The local Catholic diocese is not amused. "This insidious promotional campaign ...[makes] the reality of the Seven Deadly Sins seem cute and harmless, even tasty," says Fr. Michael Stahl, the spokesman of the North Elbe Diocese in Hamburg. "Combining something so innocently sweet and pure as ice cream with sin is unfortunate because it dilutes the real meaning of sin itself."

The Protestant group Christians for Truth is also unhappy. A spokesman says the campaign is "very painful" for people who have "experienced the power of sin."

Beliefnet agrees and demands that all the offending ice cream bars be sent to Beliefnet headquarters for proper disposal.

"Forced-Baptism" Chaplain Cleared
The Southern Baptist chaplain who reportedly baptized dusty soldiers who just wanted a bath has been cleared by his superiors. Lt. Joshua Llano says he does not recall making the statement, "[Soldiers] want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized," and the director of operations for the Army's Chief of Chaplains office has stated that Llano "does not, has not and will not use coercion in the exercise of his official responsibilities."

You might say he's been washed clean of his imputed guilt. However, the Miami Herald is standing by its original story.

Parade Idea Floated
Is it appropriate to have a victory parade to welcome home soldiers who fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom? The debate is stirring on Beliefnet, and apparently in the White House. Bush advisers told the Drudge Report that the administration is leaning toward a high-profile military parade, to take place in either New York or Washington, and that President Bush also wants to incorporate Iraq war military salutes in the capital's July 4 celebrations. Some advisers, though, warned against a victory parade. "It may be prudent to hold off on declaring victory with a major parade," one White House source told Drudge. "This war [on terrorism] is continuing."

In (Partial) Defense of Franklin Graham
I have mixed feelings about Franklin Graham having led Good Friday prayers at the Pentagon. Some Muslims at the Pentagon objected because of Graham’s strong anti-Islam statements and the cause has been picked up by some Muslim groups.

This is not to be confused with the other Franklin Graham controversy: his stated mission to go to Iraq and save Muslims, body and soul. Having Graham—-personally close to President Bush and vehemently anti-Islam—-lead a post-war relief effort that seems partly geared toward converting Muslims is irresponsible.

But Graham went to the Pentagon to preach to Christians, not Muslims. Yes, his earlier comments were offensive to Muslims, but we should err on the side of letting people of different faiths choose who they want in their own pulpits.

The Pentagon service raises a different question: The Christians at the Pentagon who requested Graham surely must have known it would irritate their Muslim co-workers, and yet they did it anyway. Why? Is this a sign that inter-religious relations are deteriorating in our armed services?

Peace Be With You... Just Don't Touch Me
This Holy Week, The Most Reverend Terence E. Finlay, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Toronto, Ontario, distributed a memo to all of his clergy, alerting them to more than a few changes to worship rituals as a result of the risk of SARS in Canada:

  • Though the priests will partake of the bread and wine, the wine will not be communicated to the whole congregation
  • Those exposed to SARS should observe the quarantine and not attend services
  • The Exchange of Peace is encouraged to be expressed with a bow or other gesture, not by shaking hands
One wonders how they would have dealt with lepers.

Communionable Diseases
The deadly SARS epidemic is doing what Martin Luther couldn't: changing the way the Catholic Church does things, at least temporarily.

The archbishop of Singapore has cancelled individual confessions, saying that priests "are to issue general forgiveness" to Catholics in the diocese. Such general absolution can only be given in times of "grave necessity."

Meanwhile, Toronto priests are being told they may omit the cup of wine and the handshake of peace during the Eucharist. In Hong Kong, volunteer pastoral workers have been instructed to stop visiting hospital patients, holy water has been removed from church fonts, and priests wear gloves and masks. Perhaps most tellingly, the Hong Kong diocese is asking people who suspect they might become ill not to go to Mass at all--a drastic measure in a church that takes attendance at Sunday services extremely seriously. It takes an international health crisis to bend some of these rules.

Soiled Soldiers Sell Souls for Soap
It's not easy for troops camped in Iraqi deserts to bathe. Enter Army chaplain Josh Llano of Houston, a Southern Baptist who offers soldiers a dunk in his 500-gallon pool "as long as they agree to get baptized." You don't just declare Jesus your personal savior, either; you have to listen to a 90-minute sermon. Nevertheless, grimy soldiers are taking the plunge.

This chaplain gets credit for being persistent. Even if the army brings in portable showers, he'll use vitamin C to entice unsaved and possibly scurvy soldiers: "There is no fruit out here, and I have a stash of raisins, juice boxes and fruit rolls to pull out."

Digesting My Husband's Supper
My husband and I attend an interfaith service for peace. In the church, a pianist plays inoffensive cocktail lounge Muzak.

"We need hugs at these times," a woman intones, embracing a friend. People smile wistfully. Some groups hold hands.

Various clergy preach love and tolerance. A Buddhist explains his leader's plan for peace. The local Zen representative, a pale young woman with a shaved head, commands us earnestly to "breathe in, breathe out" and to go into our bodies.

This is when I lose it. I imagine I've gone into my husband's body by mistake. I fantasy that I'm making him twitch, that I'm digesting his supper. I'm so engrossed in this "experience" that when I return to reality, I've missed the chance to become one with the world. "Time to go," I whisper.

Outside, I find myself longing for the anger and passion of the anti-Vietnam war protests, when we said "Make Love, Not War," and love meant sex, not hugs and holding hands. Our music was Bob Dylan and The Beatles, not a tinkling piano.

I feel guilty, harboring such thoughts. The people at that service were so sincere, well-meaning. But it's just not my scene. My body, my breath and I go home.

Spotted! Atheists in Foxholes!
The war in Iraq has revived use of the old adage, "There are no atheists in foxholes." But atheists themselves beg to differ. The American Atheists organization reprimanded Tom Brokaw for using the saying in a March 11 broadcast, explaining that it was "false and unfair to millions of people who do not believe in a God."

For atheists in the armed forces who are bothered by this saying, and by religion in the military in general, there's the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. The MAAF's mission is "to identify, examine, and respond to insensitive practices that illegally promote religion over non-religion within the military or unethically discriminate against minority religions or differing beliefs." The organization offers an ongoing list of actual atheists in foxholes.

No Beards, Miniskirts, or War Protests?
A Brigham Young University junior has dropped out of school after his participation in a war protest last week caused an uproar at the school. BYU, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, considered suspending or expelling Caleb Proulx, 22, who was arrested, with other members of Utah Citizens for Peace, for blocking the entrance to the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building in Salt Lake City. The school later decided not to expel Proulx, but said he would "work with the Honor Code Office."

The BYU Honor Code regulates academic honesty, dress and grooming, alcohol and coffee consumption, and residence hall visitations. It also states, "Members of the university community are expected to adhere to all applicable federal, state, and local laws, and, in the same spirit, to follow all institutional policies." After being charged with a federal misdemeanor, Proulx notified the Honor Code Office. "If I am willing to break the law to promote peace, then I cannot remain in commitment to an honor code which precludes - in many people's minds - civil disobedience," Proulx stated upon his decision to leave school.

Other Christian colleges are known for similarly strict codes of conduct. As Beliefnet reported in 2000, conduct codes can include restrictions about everything from mixed dancing to drinking alcohol to wearing undergarments.

Palestine, USA
The fact that rescued POW Jessica Lynch came from Palestine, W Va. might have seemed like only a mildly eerie concidence if not for the fact that the debris of Columbia space shuttle was first spotted in Palestine, Tx.

How many Palestines are there? According to, at least 20 towns in 14 U.S. states can claim that name. But, if you're looking for a touch of global holiness right here at home you can also visit Jerusalem, Mich., Mecca, Ca., and even Vatican, La.

No American Baghdads, though.

Mel Gibson's Father, cont'd
Mel Gibson's father has already implied that the Holocaust didn't happen. Now, he's joined a debate about whether the Earth revolves around the sun.

As part of a "geocentricity" contest sponsored by fundamentalist Catholics (they're out there), Hutton Gibson purports to explain "space probe figures" that are "easily ignored or misunderstood unless interpreted." The Catholic Apologetics crew believes that during the Middle Ages, the Church could not have taught that the Earth was the center of the universe if it wasn't true. Needless to say, this doesn't tally with current Church teaching on science, or with mainstream Catholic thought.

Gibson père appears to believe that heliocentrism can be proven. Which actually makes him forward-thinking for this particular crowd. A scary thought.

Franklin Graham Explains
In an article subtitled, "For Iraq's suffering people, aid is aid -- Christian or otherwise," Franklin Graham lays out his case for why Samaritan's Purse should do humanitarian work in Iraq.

Dreaming of a White Christmas
Rome airport police recently seized a creche made out of pure cocaine. The 6.6 pound creche has a street value of 1.6 million dollars.

The recipient claimed he had come to collect "a unique piece of art from South America."

The G.I.s Shine at the Shrines
Okay, so there was no showdown at Karbala (see next item), as U.S. forces punched hard at Republican Guard units heading toward the holy city and admirably avoided a battle with apocalyptic overtones. Now, with some shooting continuing there and in Najaf, another city sacred to the Shiites, military spokesmen on both sides are fighting a spin war over who is desecrating the shrines.

Iraqis say American jets are buzzing the ancient tombs. American generals say G.I.s are holding fire even when fired at from mosques.

In our scorebook, the American side is ahead on points, since the latter is a crime, experts say, almost unforgiveable under Islamic rules of war.

The Grandfather of All Battles
Since before hostilities began, U.S. military and media alike have prepared us for Saddam's climactic defense of Baghdad. Saddam may have other plans. In past days, Republican Guard battalions have moved reinforcements south toward the holy city of Karbala. If the Iraqis succeed in engaging U.S.-led troops there, it could be a disaster for the coalition, no matter the outcome.

Karbala contains the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein, who died there with his 72 followers in a massacre that might be called the Alamo of Islam. The shrine to Hussein commemorates the ultimate example of Muslim martyrdom, and Hussein himself is a founding imam of Shia Islam.

Though his own son-in-law is said to have destroyed the shrine while quelling Shiite riots after the Gulf War, Saddam has often made ingenious use of Islamic imagery. If the invasion comes down to a bloody fight between "infidels" and Iraqi troops at Karbala, the spiritual symbolism could well poison an American victory, especially for those Shiites whose support the coalition has been hoping for.

<Prev Page | Next Page> Page 2 

printer friendly

Community | Religions | Spirituality | Inspiration | Health | Culture
Morality | Family | Charity & Service | News | Teens | Discussions
Quizzes | Meditations | Prayer Circles | Memorials | Columnists

Feedback | Advertising Info | Site Map
| Article Index | Manage Your Newsletter Subscriptions

Copyright (c) 2003 Beliefnet, Inc. All rights reserved.
Use of this site is subject to Terms of Service
and to our Privacy Policy. Constructed by Beliefnet.