The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors
Americans Pin Poverty Passage
on Obama, Not Bible
ore Americans believe a statement about giving "justice to the poor and homeless" came from President Obama instead of its true source, the Bible.
A survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Bible Society found that 54 percent of U.S. adults polled believe the statement--"You must defend those who are helpless and have no hope. Be fair and give justice to the poor and homeless"--came from a celebrity or politician, when the statement actually comes from Proverbs 31:8.
Of the 1,001 adults surveyed, 16 percent believed the statement came from Obama; 13 percent said it came from the Bible. Other popular answers included the Dalai Lama, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Oprah Winfrey.
Other questions in the survey also addressed poverty and the Bible.
In a question about the teachings of the Bible, 40 percent said the Bible offers the most teaching on heaven, pride or adultery, even though poverty is actually mentioned more than any of these subjects.
The survey was developed to coincide with the release of the society's new Poverty and Justice Bible, which highlights verses about poverty and justice and provides tips on helping people in need.
Religion-based Hate Crimes Highest Since 2001
Hate crimes targeting people based on their religion were at their highest frequency last year since 2001, according to a new report.
The report, compiled from FBI data, found 1,519 religious hate crimes in 2008, accounting for about 20 percent of all bias crimes. It was an increase from 2007, when 1,400 crimes of religious bias were reported.
The number of crimes targeting Jews or Jewish institutions also increased in 2008. There were 1,013 hate crimes against Jews last year, accounting for about two-thirds of all religious bias crimes. It was the largest number of crimes against Jews since 2001.
Overall, hate crimes rose slightly in 2008, with participating agencies reporting 7,783 bias crimes. Racial bias accounted for about half of all those reported, with attacks aimed at ethnicity and sexual orientation accounting for much of the balance.
Attacks against Muslims dropped slightly last year, to 105 reports.
The numbers spiked in 2001, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. That year, 597 attacks against Muslims were reported, bringing the number of overall bias crimes up past 9,000 incidents.
Officials from the Anti-Defamation League said an increase in agencies participating in the survey could account for part of the increase last year. But they said the spike remains a concern nonetheless.
Lutheran Dissidents Say New Church Body in the Works
In late September, Lutheran dissidents said they would hunker down for a year and study whether to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and create a new church body.
Less than two months later, on November 19 Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Renewal) announced that indeed such a body "will likely be necessary."
"What happened was the idea of a discussion for a year became kind of scary for people who want to leave now," said the Rev. David Baer, a CORE spokesman and pastor of an ELCA church in Whitewood, South Dakota.
Baer said his own church will vote this weekend on whether to join CORE, which he estimates counts around 700 congregations as members.
CORE said no "firm decisions" have been made about how the new church body will be structured; recommendations will be released in February. "The working committee is just beginning their work," Baer
said. "What we've done is paint a little picture of what a church body will look like."
Conservative Lutherans have been distressed since the ELCA's Churchwide Assembly voted in August to allow gays and lesbians in committed, same-sex relationships to be ordained as clergy. The assembly also voted to allow congregations to recognize and support such relationships.
"The vote on sexuality opened the eyes of many to how far the ELCA has moved from biblical teaching," the Rev. Paull Spring, CORE's chair, said in a statement Wednesday.
ELCA spokesman John Brooks said CORE's announcement was expected. "We are staying focused on our clear priorities and clear mission. More than 10,000 congregations that want to be part of that mission."
Five congregations have taken the two votes necessary to leave the ELCA since the Churchwide Assembly, Brooks said. The ELCA has approximately 4.6 million members spread across 10,300 congregations.
Eighty-seven congregations have taken the first vote, and 28 of those did not attain the two-thirds majority required to leave the denomination, Brooks said.
"That two-thirds hurdle is a big hurdle for some congregations," Baer said.
Christian Scientists Concerned about Health Care Provisions
Atheists are celebrating and Christian Scientists are worried now that a provision requiring private medical insurers to reimburse for "religious or spiritual health care" has not been included in the Senate's health care reform bill.
In a news release headlined "Victory!", the Freedom From Religion Foundation said the deleted language "would have mandated payment to Christian Scientist practitioners for `faith-healing' expenses." The Madison, Wisconsin-based foundation called it a "great victory for the separation of church and state and a deserved defeat for the Christian Science lobby."
The Boston-based Church of Christ, Scientist, which teaches its followers to rely on prayer rather than medicine for healing, sees it as a matter of choice.
"President Obama said those happy with their current health care should be allowed to stay with it. We feel it is important that everyone have access to spiritual care," said Phil Davis, who manages media and legislative affairs for the church worldwide.
The church maintains a three-person office in Washington, D.C., and is working to convince legislators to consider amendments to the health care bill, he said.
It's not a question of church-state separation, Davis said. "The framers of the Constitution wanted a balance. We have no desire to see an establishment of one religion over another, but we want to be sure of the free exercise of religion," he said.
Four insurers now cover spiritual care, and Medicare reimburses for physical care provided by a Christian Science nurse, he said. The current health reform legislation, as it now stands, "would have a chilling effect on the public's ability to be covered for spiritual care," Davis said.