Ridgecrest's New Chapel
With a "come on in" greeting, officials at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center opened the doors to a new 300-seat Rutland Chapel April 10.
Built with a $1 million gift from the Rutland Family Foundation in Decatur, Ga., the chapel is a stone and wood structure set on a mountainside overlooking the North Carolina conference center complex. In addition to the chapel area, the building has conference and fellowship space.
Mike Arrington, vice president of LifeWay's corporate affairs division that oversees the conference centers area, welcomed guests to the dedication, saying the chapel was an answer to prayer and a first step in achieving a vision for the conference centers.
"This chapel," said LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr., "is the first new construction at either Ridgecrest or Glorieta Conference Center in thirty years. As such, this chapel will set the tone for our renovations at both centers. Let this not be the last of our dreams."
At a luncheon following the dedication ceremony, Byron Hill, national director of LifeWay Conference Centers, said the master plan for the new construction and renovations at the conference centers are being done to achieve a single goal. "We are about reaching people for Christ and transforming their lives."
Gnosticism — Old But Alive And Well
Christianity began as a diverse spiritual movement that was later oppressed by male leaders, according to one Princeton scholar.
At a lecture sponsored by the Episcopal Church in Middleburg, Virginia, Dr. Elaine Pagels argued that Gnostics probably wrote the earliest "gospels" about Jesus, and that the Bible's authors may have copied those works.
According to Pagels, the Gnostic texts support such ideas as female church leadership, rejection of authority figures, a free-spirit Jesus, and even mystical sex. Pagels added that early Christianity had diverse beliefs until the male bishops oppressed the Gnostics and burned their "heretical" writings.
Pagels also claimed that the first Christians believed in a spiritual rather than a bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and that the human problem was ignorance rather than sin.
In response to complaints about the lecture, the Episcopal bishop of Virginia, Bishop James Lee wrote that the Episcopal Church is not for those who want "dogmatic clarity" on questions of Christian belief. "Ours is a church more suited for the thinking pilgrim," added Lee.
Washington Times, April 11, 2002
On The Road Again
After a sunrise prayer session August 12 on the sandy shores bordering the Atlantic Ocean, Ted Stone, perhaps the Southern Baptist Convention's most visible and vocal anti-drug crusader, will commence his fourth walk across the United States. Again he will be seeking to convince his countrymen to join him and other dedicated citizens in bringing relief to the serious legal and illegal drug problems that destroy or impair so many lives every day.
The coast-to-coast trek will take him through such cities as Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte, Spartanburg, Atlanta, Birmingham, Jackson, Shreveport, Dallas, Fort Worth, Lubbock, Albuquerque, Phoenix, and will conclude in Orange County, California at the Pacific Ocean just before Christmas. As in the previous three walks, Stone will carry Old Glory, appealing to the patriotism of those who meet him along the road and the audiences who hear his message of hope in churches and schools.
His traveling shirts will be emblazoned with the symbol of his Christian faith, a red cross on a blue and white background, and his message to Christians will be simple and forthright: "Christ is the ultimate answer to every difficulty we encounter on this earth, and Jesus expects His followers to provide leadership in correcting this devastating tragedy. Our churches should become hospitals for those who hurt – places where those with dark addictions can find healing and a better way of life!"
The Cost of Excessive TV Viewing
Assist News Service reports that America's teenagers are watching more television than ever and it's taking a toll. Today, Americans spend an average of 40 percent of their free time watching television. Consider the following statistics on the effects of television:
• Only one in twelve parents require their children to do homework before watching television.
• Only 25 percent of teens can name the city where the U.S. Constitution was written: Philadelphia.
• Seventy-five percent of teens know where to find the zip code 90210: Beverly Hills.
• The average American child sees 200,000 violent acts on TV by age 18.
• Children witness 16,000 murders on television by age 18.
• Ten percent of youth violence is directly attributable to TV viewing.
• Seventy-three percent of Americans believe TV and movies are responsible
for juvenile crime.
• Eighty percent of Hollywood executives think there is a link between TV violence and real-life violence.
• Ninety-one percent of children polled said they felt upset or scared by violence on television.
• Network news coverage of homicides increased 721 percent between 1993 and 1996.
• The number of violent scenes per hour on major network television increased 41 percent from 1992 to 1994.
• Twelve medical studies since 1985 link excessive television-watching to increasing rates of obesity.
• In 1963, 4 percent of American children, ages six to eleven, were seriously overweight.
• In 1993, 14 percent of American children, ages six to eleven, were seriously overweight.
• Two-hundred-two junk food ads typically air during four hours of Saturday morning programming.
Assist News Service, April 18, 2002
New And Improved Theology
Responding to an annual 2.75 million dollar deficit, the board of trustees at Union Theological Seminary on Manhattan's Upper West Side has attempted to enhance its curriculum in an effort to increase alumni giving. To enhance its program, Union will focus on training Christian clergy with a "new Christian theology" of religion that appreciates other faiths, works to combat poverty, and relates "spirituality to responsibility for the Earth," or environmentalism.
Union president Joseph Hough says, however, that the school will not consider experimenting with more conservative evangelical approaches. According to Hough, "It's not likely that Union's going to go more conservative. For better or worse, Union has been the beacon of progressive Christianity. There are plenty of conservative schools already."
Daniel O. Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), said Union's financial problem matches that of many older schools. Aleshire noted though that many of the growing seminaries in the United States today are among the "evangelical tradition."
Washington Times, April 15, 2002
Jesus On Google
According to the online search engine Google, people search under the category Jesus on the Internet approximately 850,000 times per day. This puts the category slightly ahead of the Beatles but still trailing Britney Spears, football, and sex in total number of searches per day.
Pressflex.com reports that by using Google's Adwords program, Internet patrons can consult historical data to estimate how many times a "keyword" is searched for in a day, week, or month. According to the Adwords results, Jesus' 850,000 searches beats the Beatles with 830,000 hits. However, Harry Potter gets 920,000. Bill Clinton gets 1,030,100. Jennifer Lopez gets 1,135,100. Eminem gets 1,235,100. And Britney Spears gets 2,540,200.
Spears is nearly twice as popular as the category God on the Internet, which gets just 1,295,100 searches per day. Both, however, finished behind football's 2,605,200 searches.
Compared with other religious figures, Jesus receives a strikingly high number of searches – finishing well ahead of Muhammad's 130,000 and Buddha's 175,000.
The most searched for item on the Internet according to this data is sex, whose 32 million searches tops its nearest rival, MP3, by nearly 10 million searches per day.
Pressflex.com, April 18, 2002
A Texas public school teacher claims that she was denied a promotion because she refused to remove her children from Christian school and enroll them in public school.
Karen Jo Barrow says that in 1998 the superintendent of the Greenville Independent School District informed her that she would be named an assistant principle, but only if she withdrew her children from Christian school and placed them in public school. After refusing to move her children from their Christian school, Barrow was denied the promotion. She subsequently filed suit against the school district.
Kelly Shackelford, an attorney at the Liberty Legal Institute, says that Barrow had been waiting for the position to open up for nine years. When the position opened up, the district decided she was the best candidate for the job, according to Shackelford. "But she was told she couldn't get it unless she took her kids out of Christian school." Shackelford continued, "The government has no right to tell parents that they can't choose Christian education for their children – that's unconstitutional."
There is a lot at stake with Barrow's case, the attorney argues. "The ultimate issue here is the authority of parents over their children. Are our [kids] children of the state, or do the parents have authority?"
AgapePress, April 23,2002
A school district in California is facing a federal lawsuit after representatives from Planned Parenthood were brought in to talk with students about homosexuality.
In a freshman health class at Arcata High School, administrators invited Planned Parenthood representatives to address the students. What took place in the class, however, amounts to religion-based harassment, according to Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute.
Dacus explains that all of the children were put in a circle. The Planned Parenthood representatives would then ask the children questions. If they answered the questions correctly, the students were allowed to leave the circle and watch the students whose answers were incorrect. In the circle, the final question asked of the children was, "Do you have religious beliefs that … homosexuality is a sin and therefore wrong?" According to Dacus, three girls "were left in the middle of the circle feeling very demeaned, very put down." The other children were encouraged to "watch and look and stare at the quote-unquote 'intolerant' kids inside the circle," said Dacus.
Dacus says such exercises are all too common in California schools. "These kinds of programs are becoming the norm, not the exception," he says. "They're becoming much more the rule, and that is why it's so important to protect our children from this kind of stigmatizing trauma that's taking place against Christian kids with Christian family backgrounds."
AgapePress, April 19, 2002
Pastor Li Dexian, a well-known house church leader in China's Guangdong Province, has been arrested at least twenty times in the past three years for preaching about Jesus Christ.
According to Voice of the Martyrs, Pastor Li's latest arrest came on April 11 during an evangelistic meeting in the city of Hua Du. Witnesses say that representatives of the Chinese Public Security Bureau (PSB) raided the house in which Pastor Li was holding a Christian gathering and began shouting that the congregants were in violation of the law. Because the Christians had not petitioned the government for permission to gather for the house church meeting, Li, his wife, and four other church members were taken into custody for questioning.
Police questioned the Christians for several hours before releasing all of them except Li. At the time of his arrest, experts speculated that Pastor Li would be held at least until April 25 — the maximum period that he can be detained without charge.
Religion Today News, April 17, 2002
College Drinking — The Rest Of The Story
A recent study reveals that 1,400 college students are killed every year in alcohol-related accidents. The study additionally estimates that drinking by college students contributes to 500,000 injuries, 70,000 cases of sexual assault or date rape, and 400,000 instances of unprotected sex each year.
"Half the World Trade Center casualties are happening every year in our colleges," noted one researcher, Mark Goldman, a psychology professor at the University of South Florida.
According to the researchers, these statistics show that college drinking needs to be seen as a major health concern. "Historically, I think there has been the view that whatever college students are doing, it's not that serious a problem, it's a rite of passage," said another researcher, Kenneth Sher, a psychology professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Rev. Edward Malloy, president of the University of Notre Dame and co-chairman of the task force, said the report should motivate universities to address the problem of drinking on campus.
"All you have to do is look at a couple of cable television channels who cover spring break where endless groups of drunken students get up and say 'I'm having the greatest time here,'" said Malloy, "and then you recognize on the basis of these statistics what the fallout of the great time is."
USA Today, April 9, 2002