01: Under editor-in-chief Atoosa Rubenstein, the girls’ magazine Seventeenhas added a faith section that includes inspirational messages, personal stories of spiritual struggle, and testimonials on such issues as prayer and gay teens who attend church.
Verses from the New Testament are printed beside sayings from the Prophet Muhammad. The teachings of Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Lama are also featured. Rubenstein said she started the section not to spread a religious message but to provide a forum on an issue she believes is important to this generation of girls.
She adds, “I just noticed more and more of our readers were talking about their faith.” Experts on religion and youth trends theorize that teens are rebelling against the broad, undefined spirituality of their baby-boomer parents and are seeking environments – like those in church – with clearer rules that help them cope with everyday life.
A year ago, Rubenstein took over at Seventeen with a mandate to revamp the publication, and she revived the religion idea. For guidance, she formed an interfaith advisory board that includes an evangelical preacher, a priest from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, a Reform rabbi, a Buddhist teacher, an Episcopal youth minister and two Muslims.
(Source: Los Angeles Times, Sept. 6.)
02: Let Freedom Ring is an independent expenditure group seeking to politically activate evangelicals for George Bush by election time Independent expediter groups, known as 527 groups after the IRS code, have become controversial fixtures of the presidential campaigns thanks to such efforts as the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth and MoveOn.org.
But Let Freedom Ring has eschewed a negative approach as it reaches out to people of faith to tout the record of George W. Bush, particularly focusing on the swing states. The group’s other projects include voter registration, e-mail campaigns, commercials, and a film on the faith of President Bush. The group was launched with the seed money of Dr. Jack Templeton, a retired pediatrician and son of the philanthopist John Templeton. The group is planning to raise between $5 million and $10 million to finance its projects.
(Source: Wall Street Journal, Sept. 25)
03: The Ekklesia Project represents an effort by mainline Protestant academics and clergy to form intentional communities in their congregations that stress spiritual disciplines and non-violence.
Started by Duke University ethicist Stanley Hauerwas, the project evolved from a declaration issued in 1999 that called for churches to maintain their loyalty to the Gospel in a society based on consumerism and violence. The declaration, which now has drawn 1,000 signers, pledged participants to cultivate specific spiritual practices, such as regular prayer and Friday fasting “as a form of prayerful resistance to the idolatrous practices of our culture.”
The project maintains a website (http://www.ekklesiaproject.org) and issues booklets on spiritual practices and is starting a popular and scholarly book series.
The EP has also started an intentional community of students at three Chicago seminaries, aiming to demonstrate the connection between theology and real life. Churches can now work with scholar-pastor teams from the project to implement some of its programs. Critics claim that the project — and Hauerwas’ writings in general — sidetracks Christians from social justice with the concern for the integrity and practices of the religious community, though EP supporters say social action and peacemaking, such as opposition to the Iraq war, flows from such community involvement.
(Source: Christian Century, Sept. 7.)
04: Hellenic Reconstructionism is a increasingly popular form of paganism, particularly among academics.
The loosely defined movement seeks to reconstruct and propogate Greek paganism. Books describing ancient Greek rituals, religious practices and hymns to the gods are crucial to modern practitioners’ understanding of their religion. “One cannot be a pious Hellenist without knowing and understanding what piety meant to the ancient Greeks,” says one devotee. No one knows how many Hellenic reconstructionists there are, but scholars agree they are a tiny slice of the estimated 400,000 neo-pagans in the United States. Many have classics backgrounds and recommend books to each other.
Because their numbers are small and scattered, the Internet is their main channel of communication, with the various web sites carrying reading lists of recommended books. These reading lists reflect the kaleidoscope of beliefs that makes up the Hellenic reconstructionist community, which has no central religious authority. Most are heavy on scholars, like Carl Kerenyi and Walter Burkert, and the ancients, like Homer and Hesiod. “We tend to look only at scholarly resources because a lot of us have been pretty burned,” by books with more eclectic, New Age approaches,” says one participant. Their numbers may be small, but their impact can be significant
One book was expected to sell 400 copies, but when it appeared on several Hellenic reconstructionists’ reading lists, it reached more than 1,000. The same thing happened with the book Magic in the Ancient World (Harvard University Press, 1997), which has sold a “phenomenal” number of copies. Publishers suspect that such titles must be getting purchased by people with other than scholarly interests.
(Source: Religion Bookline, Sept. 14)