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Baltimore Sun sing-along: We are one in the spirit (with a lower-case 's')

Baltimore Sun sing-along: We are one in the spirit (with a lower-case 's')

Anyone who has had any contact -- post-Jesus Music era -- with American evangelicalism will know the lyrics of the classic campfire song, "We are One in the Spirit." Some people may know this song under a different title, "They'll Know We are Christians by Our Love."

One thing is for sure, no doubt about it. The word "Spirit" in this song definitely has an upper-case "S," representing -- even under Associated Press style rules -- a reference to the Holy Spirit, one Person in the traditional Christian Trinity. The first verse of this famous song goes like this: 

We are One in The Spirit, We are One in The Lord. 
We are One in The Spirit, We are One in The Lord. 
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, 
Yes they'll know we are Christians by our love.

Now, I bring this up because of a very interesting musical reference at the end of the latest in a long list of Baltimore Sun stories written as tributes to brave progressive Christian congregations -- defined as those with doctrines acceptable to editors at the newspaper that lands in my front yard -- that are fighting to remain alive here in Charm City. In this case, we are dealing with a story about three congregations that are sharing a building in West Baltimore, in an attempt to make ends meet.

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God and journalism: American reportedly beheaded by ISIS wrote about his faith

God and journalism: American reportedly beheaded by ISIS wrote about his faith

What absolutely crushing news.

Amid all the brutal headlines involving the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria (important background here) came a YouTube video Tuesday purportedly showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley.

Most of the initial news stories I've read — including those by the Washington Post and the New York Times — ignore Foley's own faith background.

But in the city where Foley graduated from Marquette University — a Catholic and Jesuit institution — the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel nails the faith angle. 

The Journal Sentinel notes that Foley previously was among "four journalists kidnapped by Moammar Gadhafi loyalists in Libya in April 2011." The Milwaukee story describes a letter Foley wrote to his alma mater after 44 days in captivity.

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Touching story from Globe tells of once-doomed Haleigh's new life

Touching story from Globe tells of once-doomed Haleigh's new life

From a reader comes word of a Boston Globe feature from earlier this month that we missed: "A New Life for Haleigh: For Child at the Center of an End-of-Life Battle, Family Created a Loving World." "A good story about Christians who walk the walk" is how the tipster describes the piece. I couldn't agree more.

The nearly 3,000-word article by award-winning Globe staff writer Patricia Wen begins with a scene that, in a sense, gives the entire story in microcosm:

WESTFIELD — The minister winds up his welcome to some 400 people, and soon lyrics flash karaoke-like on a large screen. A spirited Christian pop song, “Blessed be Your Name,” fills the Westfield Evangelical Free Church.
In the back row, a young woman, sitting in a wheelchair next to her adoptive parents, lights up.
Though she can’t read all the words, she sways to the music and claps her hands, the nails painted pink with white polka dots. She loves cheerful tunes and a crowd, and on this Sunday, she has both.
Keith and Becky Arnett could have predicted that Haleigh, 20, would brighten at this part of the service.

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Yo WaPo: All those disaffected evangelicals are singing a very old song

Yo WaPo: All those disaffected evangelicals are singing a very old song

Does anyone out there remember the wave of press coverage for the gigantic Promise Keepers "Stand In The Gap" rally on the National Mall long, long ago?

I was there as a color commentator for MSNBC, believe it or not, and all through the day I watched the national press try to turn the event into a Republican rally. That was hard, since nearly half of the speakers were African-Americans and the crowd of a million or so included lots of men whose views were focused on moral and cultural issues, as opposed to partisan politics.

This was the Woodstock of the multiracial charismatic movement, I noted, and by the end of the day it was very clear that most of the speakers were convinced that they were not going to be able to count on the Republican Party to defend centuries of Judeo-Christian doctrines on marriage, family and sex. Forget Bill Clinton, I said, if anyone had reason to worry at the end of that rally it was Newt Gingrich.

That was Oct. 4, 1997.

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In #Ferguson, a tale of two churches — one white, one black

In #Ferguson, a tale of two churches — one white, one black

The news in Ferguson, Mo., goes on and on and on.

I've highlighted coverage of the religion angle here and here, and I'll do so again in this post.

So far, I've found Twitter the best means to keep up with all the faith stories (by the way, follow all the GetReligionistas). 

Godbeat pro Lilly A. Fowler of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch remains on the scene, and Eric Marrapodi of CNN "Belief Blog" fame is there, too.

Former Post-Dispatch religion writer Tim Townsend tweeted a link to a Washington Post story that I found particularly compelling.

The Post story contrasts the stark differences Sunday at a white church sympathetic to the white police officer who shot Michael Brown and a black church mourning the young black man's death.

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Why is the Song of Solomon in the Bible, anyway?

Why is the Song of Solomon in the Bible, anyway?

ROB ASKS:

The Song of Solomon gets a lot of "bad press." Are there spiritual lessons to be found in this book?

THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:

The Song of Solomon or Song of Songs has probably roused more confusion than any other book in the Hebrew Bible, similar to the New Testament’s complex Book of Revelation. Roland K. Harrison of the University of Toronto says the Song provides “almost unlimited ground for speculation.” The Bible’s usual piety, preachments and prayers are totally absent, nor is God even mentioned (except for 8:6 in some translations). Yet readings from the Song are chosen for Judaism’s Passover liturgy and Catholicism’s feast of Mary Magdalene.

Why was this book chosen for the Bible in the first place? Did King Solomon write it? Is it about him? And, most important, is this a book of erotic poetry, as it appears on the surface, or something totally different, an unusual expression of the spiritual love bond between God and believers?

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Wikipedia religion: RNS examines risks of the online encyclopedia

Wikipedia religion: RNS examines risks of the online encyclopedia

The biggest strength of Wikipedia is also its biggest weakness: What one person writes, another can change or delete. This issue is writ large in religion, as a recent article in the Religion News Service says.

"Religious topics are one of the top 100 most frequently vandalized on Wikipedia," says the article, which keeps up a brisk pace despite the 1,200+ words.  It explains not only the why of religious edits, but the difficulties of how to keep things straight -- and, in a field as subjective as belief, what it means to keep things straight.

The story starts with Mormons, surely one of the more scrutinized faiths, especially since Mitt Romney's presidential bid in 2012. In three years, Anthony Willey, a Mormon and a Wikipedia administrator, has done more than 8,000 changes, mostly on his own faith.

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Pope Francis, tricky abortion language and Associated Press style

Pope Francis, tricky abortion language and Associated Press style

There are few issues that your GetReligionistas deal with on a regular basis that are more emotional than the language used in news coverage about abortion. It's the whole pro-life equals anti-abortion and pro-choice equals pro-abortion (or pro-abortion rights) debate.

Some people claim that all of this is strictly a matter of political speech and they see no religious content in the debate at all.

Right. Forget centuries of tradition, the history of American debates on abortion and, well, that whole Psalm 139 thing.

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mothers womb. … Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.

So people paid attention when Pope Francis visited that highly symbolic cemetery in South Korea the other day. 

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Pope Francis in South Korea: Broad variety of coverage

Pope Francis in South Korea: Broad variety of coverage

How do you get the New York Times interested in Protestants?

Easy. Quote the Protestants freaking out over a visit by the Pope Francis. In classic form, the newspaper uses a single source to explore (exploit?) differences among Christians as Francis prays for peace and unity there.

It's one of more than 3,900 articles on the first pope to visit Korea since John Paul II in 1989.

It's also an extreme example of the antagonistic coverage the church gets from American reporters, according to an article by Father Thomas Reese in the National Catholic Reporter.  Reese complains that while obsessing over abortion, gay marriage and birth control, reporters have been ignoring other actions of the American bishops -- such as their stances on the environment, disarmament, immigration reform and peace in the Middle East.

That sounds really, really serious, when this Reese piece is actually quite hilarious, which is why religion-beat pros have been chattering about it for days. This is your chance to hear (read, actually) a priest respond "Go in peace" after a journalist curses.

But back to the pope and South Korea. We'll get to the Times'  behavior later. Fortunately, other stories show some lucid, literate coverage.

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