A Faithful Olympics

I've spent a good portion of my morning "studying" for a later Olympics party where our curling, half-pipe, and figure skating knowledge will be tested. Sadly, I'm confident that I am woefully unprepared.

I do know that there a few religion-related stories coming out of the Winter Games that are worth reading. Take this first one from the Vancouver Sun on the head chaplain, who helped respond to death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, a 21-year-old luger from the country of Georgia. The chaplain had to scramble to find Eastern Orthodox chaplains. The angle--that Pentecostals aren't known for their interfaith work--is a bit forced but not bad.

David Wells readily admits Pentecostal Christians are not exactly famous for leading multi-faith efforts.

After all, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, which Wells heads, has close ties to the large Assemblies of God denomination in the United States, which is known for producing fire-and-brimstone televangelists such as Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker and Benny Hinn, and polarizing Republican vice-presidential candidates such as Sarah Palin.

I wonder how he came up with that list of names. Oh, right. Google "famous Assemblies of God." Didn't Benny Hinn and Sarah Palin both leave the AOG? Again, it feels a bit forced, but I know he's trying to help readers understand the AOG's significance. The story is oddly full of chopped up quotes, like the chaplain believes he's "fully qualified" to serve. Finally, I felt this summary of Christianity a bit under explained.

Many just can't believe a Pentecostal, whose leaders generally teach that those who don't accept Jesus Christ as their saviour will suffer eternal damnation, would be able to support clergy from competing Christian denominations and other world religions.

I know it's very difficult to explain an entire religion in a clause, so maybe I'm being picky, but Christians also teach that people who accept Jesus Christ as their savior will go to heaven. I honestly don't think I'm trying to put an unnecessary positive spin on it; I feel like it's the other half of Christian teaching. But weigh in and tell me what you think. How would you try to summarize it instead?

The Salt Lake Tribune took on a similar angle, exploring the chaplain's roles at the Olympics comparing it to the 2002 Winter Games, and it feels a little more thorough. Here's a section:

When Muslim athletes at the Olympic Village in Whistler wondered which direction they should face while praying, the chaplains had a ready answer:

"It's 16 degrees off north," Wells says, "because it [Mecca] is closer over the North Pole."

Of the 38 fully accredited chaplains, 28 hail from Christian denominations, reflecting the faith allegiances of the athletes. A number of Jewish rabbis and Buddhists, Wells explains, have partial accreditations that allow them to help with services at the two villages.

None of the chaplains is LDS, Wells says, because his calls to the area stake never were returned.

That's a lot of interesting info packed into a few sentences.

For more reading, the Christian Science Monitor featured a few Olympians of faith, and Martin Rogers tracked down a speed skating child prodigy for Yahoo Sports, discovering that she had become a nun.

There is no television and no internet at St. Joseph's Convent in Leeds, England, meaning Holum won't get to watch the Winter Olympics where she was supposed to become a star.

The peaceful surrounds of the convent is where Holum, now known as Sister Catherine, devotes her life to religious service as a Franciscan nun. That calling had begun on a trip to Our Lady of Fatima, a holy site in Portugal famed for a series of religious visions that appeared nearly a century ago. It was outside the Fatima basilica where Holum decided that a path of religious dedication, not frozen skating lanes, would be her destiny.

Enjoy your Olympic watching, and let us know if you see more interesting coverage.

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