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CULTURE DIGEST: Souper Bowl of Caring fights hunger; Habitat founder fired; Iraqi Christians gain satellite TV show

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–As millions of football fans gather around their TVs to watch the Philadelphia Eagles take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX on Sunday, thousands of young people will be playing on the name of the annual event by organizing the Souper Bowl of Caring across the nation.

The Souper Bowl of Caring encourages churches, schools, organizations and individuals interested in combating hunger and poverty to collect dollars in soup pots on or near Super Bowl Sunday.

This year, organizers expect teens from 15,000 churches, schools and other organizations to help collect money to feed those in need. The funds will be sent directly from the collection location to its charity of choice, and the dollar amount will be reported to Souper Bowl of Caring headquarters. In years past, a number of Southern Baptists, for example, have sent the funds they collected to the World Hunger Fund.

“Although the Souper Bowl of Caring is a small step in the fight against hunger, it is a way for young people to put God’s love into action by developing a heart for helping others,” said Brad Smith, founder and executive director of Souper Bowl of Caring. “The goal is for these young people to see they can make a difference and for them to continue contributing through volunteerism when they reach adulthood.”

Last year, 12,761 groups raised $4,260,531 for food banks, soup kitchens and other benevolent ministries in all 50 states and some foreign countries.

In addition to collecting money, youth are encouraged to participate in the Souper Bowl Blitz Feb. 5, working at a charity of their choice on the Saturday before the game. In 2004, more than 15,550 young people participated in the blitz.

For more information, visit www.souperbowl.org.

SMITHSONIAN REJECTS INTELLIGENT DESIGN — A research associate at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington has come under fire for allowing an article supporting “intelligent design” to appear in the institution’s peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Richard Sternberg gave up his position as managing editor of “Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington,” was asked to move out of his office, and is being ignored by colleagues who now consider him a religious fanatic and refuse to work with him on projects.

The source of the controversy is an article by Stephen Meyer, a fellow at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, titled, “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories,” which laid out the evidential case for intelligent design by citing mainstream scientists from schools like the University of Chicago, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford, according to David Klinghoffer, who addressed the issue in a column published Jan. 28 in The Wall Street Journal.

“Note the circularity: Critics of ID have long argued that the theory was unscientific because it had not been put forward in a peer-reviewed scientific journal,” Klinghoffer wrote. “Now that it has, they argue that it shouldn’t have been because it’s unscientific.”

Sternberg has filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel saying he was subjected to discrimination on the basis of perceived religious beliefs. But Sternberg rejects the notion that he has a religious agenda, contending he is a Catholic who attends Mass but is not an extremist.

“I would call myself a believer with a lot of questions, about everything. I’m in the postmodern predicament,” he said.

Intelligent design posits that the complex universe was more likely created by an unspecified designing intelligence than by an undirected natural process like random mutation and natural selection.

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY FOUNDER FIRED — Millard Fuller, president and founder of Habitat for Humanity, was terminated from employment Jan. 31 after several months of investigations into inappropriate personal behavior toward a former female staff worker.

Fuller’s termination was effective immediately, and Habitat’s chief executive officer Paul Leonard will lead the organization until a successor to Fuller is named. Former President Jimmy Carter, a longtime advocate of the home-building ministry, will serve as an honorary chair of the search committee, according to a Habitat news release.

Linda Fuller, who founded the organization with her husband in 1976, was also fired in connection with the allegations.

“Our respect for Millard’s founding vision and the years of devoted service he and Linda have given to Habitat leave us extremely saddened at this turn of events,” board chairman Rey Ramsey said. “We have tried repeatedly over the past several months to resolve differences in a spirit of respectful confidentiality. In every instance, the Fullers ultimately have rejected or been openly critical of any and all steps taken toward appropriate compromise.”

Ramsey added that the controversy will not be allowed to affect the mission of Habitat for Humanity, which is to build houses and share hope with families desperately in need throughout the world. Since its beginning, Habitat has grown into a network of 3,300 affiliates ministering in 100 countries, according to the Associated Press. This summer, the organization plans to dedicate its 200,000th home and celebrate the millionth person housed.

SATELLITE TV PROGRAM TARGETS IRAQI CHRISTIANS — The continued violence fueled by those who oppose the march of democracy in Iraq causes many citizens to seek refuge inside their homes, where they enjoy a privilege not afforded to them under Saddam Hussein — satellite television.

Pastor Haitham Akaram, an Iraqi Christian, has realized the enormous opportunity for spreading the Gospel through satellite television and has developed a new program called “Help from the Highest” broadcast on SAT-7 in Iraq.

“I want to encourage my community, my people in Iraq,” Akaram said.

The program, which Akaram writes and hosts, includes interviews with people on the streets of Baghdad, asking for their opinions on issues such as forgiveness, anger and revenge, dealing with traumatized children and hope for the future.

Akaram said he has credibility among Iraqis because he can communicate the lessons of the Bible with the sensitivity of someone living in the same unstable environment and experiencing the same emotions, according to a news release by the DeMoss Group.

SAT-7 was launched in 1996 to produce and broadcast inspirational, educational and entertaining Christian programming made by and for the people of the Middle East and North Africa.

“We are encouraging Christians in North America to pray for Iraq’s minority Christian population during this pivotal time,” Debbie Brink, executive director for SAT-7 North America, said in the release. “An estimated 800,000 Christians are being marginalized and many are fleeing the country because of the increased violence. Through this new programming, we hope to encourage and strengthen Iraqi Christians.”

SAFIRE SOUNDS OFF ON GAMBLING — William Safire, a longtime conservative columnist for The New York Times, announced his retirement and left his readers with some final thoughts in the Jan. 24 edition.

Among those thoughts, ranging from advice on “How to Read a Column” to recollections of humorous encounters with first ladies over the years, was a blurb recounting the position he took on state-sponsored gambling.

“For years I rallied against the deceptive and regressive taxation and something-for-nothing morality perpetrated by state lotteries, as well as the state deals with sometimes phony Indian tribal leaders to victimize the gullible in glitzy casinos,” Safire wrote. “But gambling, euphemized as ‘gaming,’ is booming, enriching the sleazy while preying on the addicted and corrupting slots-happy governors.”

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  • Erin Curry