FaithWorld

from Tales from the Trail:

Obama sits down with Rev. Billy Graham

President Barack Obama had his first face-to-face talks on Sunday with one of America's top spiritual leaders, the Reverend Billy Graham.

Graham, 91, who is ailing with Parkinson's disease, has  prayed with U.S. presidents over the course of the past 50 years or so.BILLY GRAHAM

Obama visited his Montreat log cabin home at the end of a weekend trip to western North Carolina.

"Rev. Graham has obviously been an important spiritual leader for past presidents and for the American people for decades," White House spokesman Bill Burton said.

He called Graham "a real treasure for our country and the president appreciates the opportunity to visit him at his home and speak with him."

In Indonesia, keeping the religious status quo

indonesia muslim

Youths read the Koran in Indonesia's South Sulawesi province September 5, 2008/Yusuf Ahmad

 Even though Indonesia is officially secular, belonging to a religious group is part of your national identity — to the point of being listed on your identity card.

But don’t try to spread a religion that isn’t one of six recognised by the constitution or you could be accused of blasphemy.

Chanting Haitian voodoo celebrants honor quake dead

haiti refugees

Tents for earthquake survivors in the national stadium in Port-au-Prince March 21, 2010/Eduardo Munoz

Dressed in white, shaking decorated gourd rattles and singing praises to “Olorum Papa” (God the Father), several hundred practitioners of Haiti’s voodoo religion held a public ceremony on Sunday to honor those killed in the January 12 earthquake.

While several Christian ceremonies have been held to mourn the hundreds of thousands of quake dead, this was the first national commemoration by Haiti’s voodoo religion, which has had to defend itself against accusations by some Evangelical preachers that it somehow caused the deadly natural disaster.

Satan is now following you on Twitter!

Some things you just can’t make up. Check out this email from Twitter about a new follower to our RTRFaithWorld account:

Subject: Satan is now following you on Twitter! Hi, Tom Heneghan.

Satan (thetempter) is now following your tweets on Twitter.

A little information about Satan:

satan 325 followers
551 tweets
following 1059 people

You may follow Satan as well by clicking on the “follow” button on their profile.If you believe Satan is engaging in abusive behavior on Twitter, you may report Satan for spam.

Pew dissects U.S. “Millennials” on issues of faith and culture

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has just issued a report that examines issues of faith and culture among Americans between the age of 18 and 29 — a demographic group that has been dubbed the “Millennials” because most came of age around 2000. You can see our story here and the report here.

A couple of things come to mind. One is the finding that Millennials were far more likely than their elders from “Generation X” and the “Baby Boom” to be unaffiliated with a specific faith. In the context of recent American history, Generation X was born between 1965 and 1980, while Baby Boomers flooded the country from 1946 to 1964.

The report found one-in-four American Millennials unaffiliated with any specific faith, compared to 20 percent of Generation Xers at a comparable point in their lives (the late 1990s). Only 13 percent of Baby Boomers were religiously “unaffiliated” in the late 1970s when they were roughly the age Millennials are now.

Singapore raps evangelical pastor for ridiculing Buddhists, Taoists

lighthouse evangelism

Lighthouse Evangelism church in Singapore, 11 Sept 2005/Slivester

Singapore has warned an evangelical Christian pastor that his online videos are offensive to Buddhists and Taoists, underlining the city-state’s concerns that religion is a potential faultline for its multicultural society.

Pastor Rony Tan, of the Lighthouse Evangelism megachurch, apologized and pulled the video clips off the internet after being visited by the government’s Internal Security Department (ISD) on Monday, the pastor and the government said on their websites. “I sincerely apologize for my insensitivity towards the Buddhists and Taoists, and solemnly promise that it will never happen again,” Tan said.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Tuesday that “Pastor Tan’s comments were highly inappropriate and unacceptable as they trivialised and insulted the beliefs of Buddhists and Taoists. They can also give rise to tension and conflict between the Buddhist/Taoist and Christian communities. ISD told Pastor Tan that in preaching or proselytising his faith, he must not run down other religions, and must be mindful of the sensitivities of other religions.”

Church of England laments drop in UK religious TV programmes

A shopper looks at televisions in central London 2 March 2005/Toby Melville

A shopper looks at televisions in central London 2 March 2005/Toby Melville

The Church of England voted on Wednesday to express “deep concern” about a drop in religious programmes on British television but drew back from solely targeting the BBC for criticism.

The Church’s General Synod, or parliament, had been asked by one of its members to pinpoint the publicly funded BBC for marginalising religion and treating religious shows on its non-core channels as “freak shows..”

But the synod instead voted on an amendment which expressed its “deep concern about the overall reduction in religious broadcasting across British television in recent years.” The member, Nigel Holmes, a former BBC producer, brought a private motion accusing the BBC of preferring natural history and gardening programmes to religious output, saying some in broadcasting assumed that religion lost audiences.

Being religious may not make you healthier after all

A number of studies over the past two decades have shown that religious people tend to be healthier. But a new study suggests that when it comes to heart disease and clogged arteries, attending religious services or having spiritual experiences may not protect against heart attacks and strokes.

This study suggests “there’s not a lot of extra burden or extra protection afforded by this particular aspect of people’s lives,” said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, of the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, who led the study, published in the journal Circulation.

JAPAN

In their review of data from nearly 5,500 people who were part of another study, Lloyd-Jones and his colleagues — one of whom, Matthew Feinstein, is a Northwestern medical student who suggested the research — expected to see less risk for heart disease among those with more “religiosity.”

Haiti quake raises fears of child-eating spirits

haiti kids

Children in a homelss camp in Port-au-Prince, 27 Jan 2010/Eduardo Munoz

The earthquake that shattered Haiti has unleashed fears that child-eating spirits, mythological figures entrenched in Haitian culture, are prowling homeless camps in search of young prey.

The ‘loup-garou,’ which means ‘wolf man,’ is similar to werewolf legends in other parts of the world, but in Haitian folklore it is a person who is possessed by a spirit and can turn into a beast or even a dog, cat, chicken, snake or another animal to suck the blood of babies and young children.

Haitians fear loups-garous in the best of times and even more since a powerful earthquake wrecked the capital of Port-au-Prince two weeks ago, killing as many as 200,000 people and forcing hundreds of thousands more to sleep outside in vast camps or on the streets.

Global economic crisis also a values crisis, Davos poll says

wefreportThe World Economic Forum, whose annual Davos summit opening today is a favourite gathering for the rich and powerful, has issued an opinion poll showing two-thirds of those surveyed believe the current economic crisis is also a crisis of values. Almost as many singled out business as the sector that should stress values more to foster a better world. “The poll results point to a trust deficit regarding values in the business world,” the Forum said in a statement.

The fact the Forum conducted this poll may come as a surprise to those who know Davos only from the “CEO in the snow” interviews that flood some cable TV financial broadcasts at this time of year. However, he Forum has widened its scope beyond its initial role as a European management seminar. Since 2001, it has been working with faith communities in inter-faith dialogue, especially between the West and the Muslim world, and more recently a Global Agenda Council on Faith to explore “the challenges that lie in the interactions between religion and society, religion and peacebuilding and religion and business”.

My news story here on the poll gives a summary of its findings. In a few bullet points, they are: