FaithWorld

Most U.S. Protestant pastors doubt Beck, Obama are Christians-poll

What do conservative TV and radio personality Glenn Beck and U.S. President Barack Obama have in common? Most U.S. Protestant pastors doubt their Christian credentials.

These are among  the findings of a survey released this week by LifeWay Research, the number-crunching  arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, which sometimes does interesting pastor polls.

The poll in question, of 1,000 U.S. Protestant pastors, asked: “Which, if any, of the following people do you believe are Christians?” It then gave a list of five prominent personalties: TV diva Oprah Winfrey, former U.S. President George W. Bush, Beck, Obama and former Alaska governor and conservative sweetheart Sarah Palin.

USA-POLITICS/RALLY (Photo: Glenn Beck raises his hands to the crowd as he stands on the steps in front of the Lincoln Memorial to address supporters at his Restoring Honor rally on the National Mall in Washington, August 28, 2010/Jonathan Ernst)

Only 27 percent of the respondents said they believed Beck, who is a Mormon, was a Christian and only 41 percent — well less than half — answered in the affirmative regarding Obama. Bush scored the highest at 75 percent and Palin was second at 66 percent. Oprah came in rock bottom at 19 percent. The national telephone survey took place Oct. 7-14.

It all raises some interesting questions and may raise a few eyebrows.

Let’s start with Beck, who often speaks the political and even spiritual language of conservative evangelical Christians– and counts many as his fans – but cannot score theological points with them because of his Mormon faith. Many evangelicals regard The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an oddball cult and the survey’s results show it may be as much a political liability for Beck the activist as it is for Mitt Romney the candidate, the former and perhaps future Republican presidential contender.

Michelle Obama dons headscarf at Indonesian mosque

michelleU.S. First Lady Michelle Obama donned a headscarf on a visit to an mosque in Indonesia on Wednesday, not a requirement for a non-Muslim but a sign of the Obamas’ efforts to show respect for the Islamic world.

Wearing a beige headscarf adorned with gold beads and a flowing chartreuse trouser suit, she toured Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque, Southeast Asia’s largest, while on a short state visit to the world’s most populous Muslim country. (Photo: U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, Grand Imam Ali Mustafa Yaqub and President Barack Obama tour the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta November 10, 2010/Jason Reed)

U.S. President Barack Obama had been expected to visit another major religious site during his Asian tour, the Sikh Golden Temple in India, but media reports said the visit was canceled after aides balked at the idea of the president wearing a scarf or skullcap required at the site.

Fears rise over growing anti-Muslim feeling in U.S.

wtc 1 (Photo: An honor guard trumpeter plays during the ceremony on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York September 11, 2010/Chris Hondros)

Amid threats of Koran burning and a heated dispute over a planned Muslim cultural center in New York, Muslim leaders and rights activists warn of growing anti-Muslim feeling in America partly provoked for political reasons.  “Many people now treat Muslims as ‘the other’ — as something to vilify and to discriminate against,” said Daniel Mach of the American Civil Liberties Union. And, he said, some people have exploited that fear in the media, “for political gain or cheap notoriety.”

The imam leading the project to build the cultural center, including a prayer room, near the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks said there was a rise of what he called “Islamophobia” and the debate had been radicalized by extremists. “The radicals in the United States and the radicals in the Muslim world feed off each other. And to a certain extent, the attention that they’ve been able to get by the media has even aggravated the problem,” Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in an interview with ABC news aired on Sunday.

Mistrust of Muslims has grown in recent years. A Pew poll released in August found the number of Americans with a favorable view of Islam was 30 percent, down from 41 percent in 2005. American feelings about Islam are partisan — 54 percent of Republicans have an unfavorable view of Islam compared to 27 percent of Democrats. In November 2001 there was not the same partisan divide of opinions on Islam.

Egypt’s moderate Islamic TV extends reach with new languages

azhar (Photo: Al Azhar mosque in Cairo, 10 March 2010/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Egypt’s al-Azhar’s satellite channel that seeks to promote moderate Islam launched four language services to extend its reach to millions of Muslims worldwide, its designers said on Sunday.

Al-Azhar, one of the oldest seats of Sunni Islamic learning, will target viewers in English, French, Urdu and Pashto besides its now running Arabic programs, in a renewed effort to further U.S. President Barak Obama’s call for greater religious tolerance.  The station was launched to coincide with Obama’s visit to Cairo in mid-2009 and his call for better ties between the Muslim world and the United States.

“There is a wide open market for religious moderation on the airwaves,” said Sheikh Khaled El Gendy, Azhar religious scholar and one of the channel’s content developers.  “We are competing with voices of intolerance for the attention and loyalty of young people,” said Gendy, who hosts a live call-in program for viewers struggling with the interpretation of Islam to seek guidance.

GUESTVIEW: Our American heritage: the Protestant legacy on the Supreme Court

supreme court

The U.S. Supreme Court, 23 June 2003/Brendan McDermid

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Elizabeth E. Evans is a U.S. freelance journalist living in Glenmoore, PA who writes about religion.

By Elizabeth E. Evans

It is hard to evaluate the significance of history while it is being written.  But in considering whether it matters that there possibly will be no Protestant on the Supreme Court when it convenes next fall, one thing is clear – it’s a fascinating time to be a student of Christian practice in America.

Does the lack of Protestants of any stripe on the Court truly matter to anyone save those who might feel upset that their denomination is left out?  Arguably not.  In a time of increasing ethnic and religious pluralism, and with tectonic changes going on within Protestantism and Catholicism in the United States, it is possible that the old categories simply don’t work anymore.

from Afghan Journal:

Engaging the Afghan Taliban: a short history

(The niche that once held a giant Buddha, in Bamiyan. Picture by Omar Sobhani)

(The niche that once held a giant Buddha, in Bamiyan. Picture by Omar Sobhani)

For those pushing for high-level political negotiations with the Afghan Taliban to bring to an end to the eight-year war,  two U.S. scholars  in separate pieces are suggesting a walk through recent history  The United States has gone down the path of dialogue with the group before and suffered for it, believing against its own better judgement in the Taliban's promises until it ended up with the September 11, 2001 attacks, says  Michael Rubin from the American Enterprise Institute in this article in Commentary.

Rubin, who is completing a history of U.S. engagement with rogue regimes, says unclassified U.S. State Department documents show that America opened talks with the Taliban soon after the group  emerged as a powerful force in Kandahar in 1994 and well over a year before they took over Kabul. From then on it was a story of   diplomats doing everything possible to remain engaged with the Taliban in the hope it would modify their  behaviour, and that they would be persuaded to expel Osama bin Laden who had  by then relocated from Sudan.  The Taliban, on the other hand, in their meetings with U.S. diplomats, would stonewall on terrorism  but would also dangle just enough hope to keep the officials calling and forestall punitive strategies.

Over a five year period of engagement, the United States gained little while the Taliban grew even more radicalised and the threat from al Qaeda more serious. Rubin details how State Department officials were repeatedly misled by Taliban officials harbouring bin Laden even after two U.S. embassies were attacked in Africa in  1998.  They even told them they would protect the Buddha statues in Bamiyan which were subsequently destroyed.

Q+A – Does Dalai Lama meeting help or hurt Obama?

dalai

Dalai Lama in a 11 Nov 2009 file photo in India/Adnan Abidi

U.S. President Barack Obama will meet the Dalai Lama on Thursday after avoiding a get-together before his China trip last year. The White House visit by the Tibetan Buddhist leader comes at a time of increased tension between the United States and China, which has warned that the session will hurt Sino-U.S. ties.

Since 1990 every U.S. president has met the Dalai Lama at the White House. President George H.W. Bush started the tradition after the Chinese authorities crushed student-led pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and an uprising in Tibet.

Is this a meeting Obama could do without? Will it help him burnish his human rights credentials? Examine these and other questions about the visit in this question-and-answer piece from our Washington bureau.

Text of Mehmet Ali Agca’s letter before release from prison

Following is the full text of an open letter issued on Wednesday in Istanbul by lawyers for Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who shot Pope John Paul in 1981. Agca is due to be released from a Turkish jail on Monday January 18. agca police

Mehmet Ali Agca in Istanbul during short release from jail on 20 Jan 2006/Ahmet Ada

OPEN LETTER 13 January 2010

1 = Terrorism is the Evil of the Devil.

2 = All religions prohibit and condemn Terrorism.

3 = The AL QAEDA is a psychopathic criminal NAZI organization. And remember that the Oklahoma City bomber TIMOTHY MCVEIGH was a NAZI too.

from Global News Journal:

Interview with North Korea border crosser Robert Park

KOREA-NORTH/CROSSING

 (Photographs by Lee Jae-won)

North Korea said on Tuesday it had  detained a U.S. citizen who entered its territory, apparently confirming a report that an American activist crossed into the
state to raise awareness about Pyongyang's human rights abuses.   Robert Park, 28, walked over the frozen Tumen river from
China and into the North last Friday, other activists said. The Korean-American told Reuters ahead of the crossing that it was his duty as a
Christian to make the journey and that he was carrying a letter calling on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to step down.

Park had an exclusive interview with Reuters last week before starting on his journey. The following are excerpts from the conversation. He requested that the comments be held until he was in North Korea.  

Reuters: Why are you planning to go into North Korea?

Robert Park: The North Korean human rights crisis by murder rate is the worst in the world. An estimated 1,000 people a day die by starvation and starvation is a murder case. North Korea has been sent more food aid than any nation in the world but the food has not gone to the people who need it. So this is murder.

Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew meets Obama on U.S. visit

bartholomewGreek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the “green patriarch” who leads 300 million Orthodox Christians, spoke with President Barack Obama on Tuesday about the fight against climate change.

“We view with alarm the dangerous consequences of disregard for the survival of God’s creation,” His All Holiness told a gathering at Georgetown University after his White House meeting. (Photo: Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the White House,3 Nov 2009/Larry Downing)

Given the name “green patriarch” by former vice president and environmental crusader Al Gore, Bartholomew also will meet this week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.