FaithWorld

U.S. religious publishers reap rewards with Justin Bieber and the Bible

(A woman reads her Bible during a weekly bible study meeting at the West Unity Methodist Church in Unity, New Hampshire July 5, 2011/Brian Snyder)

Religious publishers in the United States are busy these days, releasing such new books as a biography of pop music phenom and devout Christian Justin Bieber — entitled “Belieber!: Fame, Faith and The Heart of Justin Bieber.” Other tomes mix spirituality with memoir and self-help topics. New editions of the Bible have also been released recently,  as well as e-books and audio book downloads by popular religious authors.

“Both in dollars and units sold, the industry is back in line with its historical growth of the last decade,” since the recession, said Byron Williamson, head of Worthy Publishing in Nashville, a center  for religious publishing in the United States that some say is second only to New York City for book publishing.

Worthy Publishing ships “Belieber!” to stores on Sept. 27. The book describes Bieber’s incredible popularity and Williamson said it is suited for teenage fans and for mystified parents of children who idolize the star, many of whom memorize his song lyrics.

The religion book niche appears to be doing a little better than the rest of the industry so far this year, publishing sources say, though specific data is not available. From 2008 to 2010, books in the religion category — bibles, spiritual titles, hymnals, prayer books, religious fiction and nonfiction – performed in step with the overall recovery in the book business.

Judgment Day forecaster points to new doomsday date

(Harold Camping during an interview at Family Stations Inc. offices in Oakland, California May 16, 2011/Reuters Television )

The evangelical Christian broadcaster whose much-ballyhooed Judgment Day prophecy went conspicuously unfulfilled on Saturday has a simple explanation for what went wrong — he miscalculated. Instead of the world physically coming to an end on May 21 with a great, cataclysmic earthquake, as he had predicted, Harold Camping, 89, said he now believes his forecast is playing out “spiritually,” with the actual apocalypse set to occur five months later, on October 21.

Camping, who launched a doomsday countdown in which some followers spent their life’s savings in anticipation of being swept into heaven, issued his correction during an appearance on his “Open Forum” radio show from Oakland, California.

U.S evangelical predicting May 21 doomsday to watch it on TV

(An American evangelical from the religious group Family Radio displays a doomsday placard on the streets in Manila May 13, 2011/Romeo Ranoco)

The U.S. evangelical Christian broadcaster predicting that Judgment Day will come on Saturday says he expects to stay close to a TV or radio to monitor the unfolding apocalypse. Harold Camping, 89, previously made a failed prediction that Jesus Christ would return to Earth in 1994.

The head of the Christian radio network Family Stations Inc says that he is sure an earthquake will shake the Earth on May 21, sweeping true believers to heaven and leaving others behind to be engulfed in the world’s destruction over a few months.

Rising Christian anger in Malaysia over Bible seizures

malay bible

(A Bible in the Malay language at a church in Kuala Lumpur March 30, 2011/Bazuki Muhammad )

Rising Christian anger in mainly Muslim Malaysia over the government’s handling of a case involving seized Bibles could complicate Prime Minister Najib Razak’s bid to win back the support of minorities ahead of an early general election. The row over 35,100 imported Malay language Bibles and Christian texts impounded by Customs authorities comes amid a legal battle on the right of non-Muslims to use the Arabic word “Allah” and could raise ethno-religious tensions in the country. The Bibles were seized in 2009 but the case was only made public in January.

“There has been a systematic and progressive pushing back of the public space to practise, to profess and to express our faith,” Bishop Ng Moon Hing, chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), said in a statement on Wednesday.

New American Bible changes some words such as ‘holocaust’

bible

(A pocket Bible, June 29, 2008/Mike Segar )

A new edition of one the most popular English-language Bibles will offer substitutes for words such as “booty” and “holocaust” to better reflect modern understanding. Nearly 50 scholars from all faiths and a committee of Roman Catholic bishops have labored since 1994 over the first fresh edition of the New American Bible since 1970, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said on Wednesday.

The changes go beyond a few words being altered, and include freshly-written notes that should help readers better understand the Catholic Cchurch’s interpretation of biblical concepts, Sperry said.  The revisions more accurately reflect translations of ancient Hebrew and Greek versions of the Old Testament and the constant evolution of modern-day language.

For example, the word “holocaust,” which for most people refers to the World War Two genocide of Jews, was changed to “burnt offerings,” which clarifies the original, positive idea of making offerings to God. “Booty,” which has come to have a sexual connotation, was changed to “spoils of war;” and “cereal,” which many think of as breakfast food, became “grain” to reference loads of wheat.

Church of England to wash some Bible imagery from baptism rite

baptism 1

(Sistine Chapel fresco The Baptism of Christ c. 1482 by Pietro Perugino)

The Church of England has voted to use more accessible language during baptisms to help it connect better with congregations, especially non church-goers.  Members attending the Church’s General Synod, or parliament, in London, agreed that the Liturgical Commission should provide supplementary material to help prevent the eyes of  worshippers “glazing over” during important parts of the service.

The Reverend Tim Stratford, from Liverpool, said on Wednesday his motion was “not a request for christenings without Christianity.” Quite the opposite.  “I am not asking for the language of Steven Gerrard,” he said, referring to the Liverpool and England  soccer star. “Just references that could be understood by the majority.”

Parts of the service were difficult to use “without seeming inappropriately schoolmaster-like”, he said.  Stratford said he did not disagree with the words currently being used, such as “I turn to Christ, I repent of my sins, and I renounce evil.”

Gas in the Holy Land: energy prospecting with the Bible as guide

israel gas 1Using the Bible as its guide, Texas-based energy company Zion Oil and Gas has searched for oil in the Holy Land for a decade. The company uses a map of the 12 ancient tribes of Israel and the biblical assertion – “the foot of Asher to be dipped in oil on the head of Joseph” – as an unlikely guide to help it decide where to drill. (Photo: A worker stands on an oil rig belonging to Zion Oil and  Gas in Karkur, northern Israel October 17, 2010/Nir Elias)

Sitting beneath an 18-storey rig in northern Israel, Zion’s CEO Richard Rinberg translates that reference by pointing to an area on the map where the territory of Asher – long and thin and shaped like a leg – once pushed into the land that belonged to Joseph’s sons.

“It’s exactly where we are,” said Rinberg, a good-humoured Orthodox Jew with a background in accounting and a belief that this biblical prophecy is backed by concrete scientific data. Founded by John Brown, a Christian Zionist who believes the Bible prophesied the discovery of oil in Israel, Zion is just one of a pack of energy companies that has spent years, even decades, surveying and drilling around Israel and its territorial waters. Like many, Zion has yet to find commercial amounts of oil or gas.

Malawi Muslims burn Gideons Bibles in protest

bibleMuslims in southern Malawi have been burning Bibles in protest against their distribution in Islamic schools by Gideons International, a senior Muslim Association of Malawi official said on Tuesday.

Sheikh Imran Sharif, the association’s secretary general, said the burning of Bibles was carried out by a few Muslim fanatics and the association has ordered them to stop. The Muslim protest has been widely criticised in secular Malawi, which has had little religious friction. (Photo: Bible, 14 Dec 2008/Edgeurged)

Malawi has 1.7 million Muslims, mostly living in the south of the country, that has a population of about 15 million.

Wind could have parted Red Sea for Moses: U.S. report

moses 1Moses might not have parted the Red Sea, but a strong east wind that blew through the night could have pushed the waters back in the way described in biblical writings and the Koran, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

Computer simulations, part of a larger study on how winds affect water, show wind could push water back at a point where a river bent to merge with a coastal lagoon, the team at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado at Boulder said. (Image: Israel’s Escape from Egypt on a 1907 Bible card)

“The simulations match fairly closely with the account in Exodus,” Carl Drews of NCAR, who led the study, said in a statement. “The parting of the waters can be understood through fluid dynamics. The wind moves the water in a way that’s in accordance with physical laws, creating a safe passage with water on two sides and then abruptly allowing the water to rush back in.”

Israel Museum takes a new look at the history of the Holy Land

jerusalem museumA new Jerusalem exhibit displaying a million years of history in the Holy Land offers Bible buffs and skeptics alike a chance to say: “I told you so!”  The Israel Museum, fresh-faced after a three-year, $100 million upgrade, offers an unparalleled look into the development of monotheistic religions, while leaving plenty of room for both science and faith. (Photo: A statue of the Emperor Hadrian at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem July 20, 2010/Baz Ratner)

The museum’s more devout visitors may feel vindicated by a collection of three-thousand-year-old weapons used by ancient warriors in the Battle of Lachish, verifying the fighting as depicted in the Bible.  The scientifically minded can point to a set of 1.5 million year old bull horns on display around the corner, by far predating Earth’s creation as described by the book of Genesis.

A new exhibit features the reconstruction of a church originally built about 400 years after the time of Jesus. It has daunting similarities to a synagogue of the same period reconstructed alongside.  The influence can also be seen in later Islamic relics on display nearby.