Religion News of 2007
The Religion eZine - Newsmakers

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The Lost Tomb of Jesus

James Cameron claims to have discovered the lost tomb of Jesus in an ossuary outside of Jerusalem. Experts respond to the award-winning director with a collective shrug as they wonder why no one told Cameron that the name "Jesus" was very common during biblical times.

God Bless Football

The price for a 30-second ad in Superbowl XLI: $2.6 million. Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy giving God the glory for the Superbowl victory on National television: priceless.

A Mormon President?

Mormonism gains a platform of presidential proportions as former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, joins the race for the presidency in '08. Evangelical voters are pondering whether they will support the eventual Republican candidate, as they did in 2004, because of questions about faith and/or platform. Many Republicans say they would be reluctant to vote for Mormon Mitt Romney.

The Christian Coalition decided to sit out the 2008 presidential race, and the new president of the National Association of Evangelicals said he'd rather conduct a wedding or funeral than meet with White House hopefuls.

Creationist Museum includes Dinosaurs

The $27 million Creation Museum opens in Petersburg, Ky. The museum combines high-tech Universal Studio-like attractions with young earth creationism displays, including an interactive Eden with animatronic dinosaurs, a planetarium and stunning special effects.

Jerry Falwell Dies

Jerry Falwell, pastor, television evangelist and founder of the Moral Majority and the religious right, died at age 73. Ruth Graham, the wife of evangelist Billy Graham, died at 87.

Tammy Faye Bakker Messner also died, causing a changing of the guard to a new generation of less doctrinaire conservatives with a broader social agenda.

"The religious right is not dead," said Laura Olson, a political scientist at Clemson University in South Carolina, "but it certainly has begun to look different lately."

Evan Almighty

The biblical story of Noah garners a big screen adaptation from director Tom Shadyac in "Evan Almighty." Noah is played by none other than Steve Carell of "The Office."

Mother Teresa Biography

The posthumous autobiography of Mother Teresa, "Come Be My Light," by Brian Kolodiejchuk is published 10 years after her death. In a collection of personal letters we discover a struggling and often doubting disciple.

Teddy Bear Mohammed

Gillian Gibbons, a British primary school teacher, was arrested in Sudan for letting her class of 7-year-olds name a teddy bear Mohammed, which is against the rules of Islam. She was later pardoned.

Within Islam, relations with the West continued at a slow simmer, minus the violent reaction seen in 2006 to the Muhammad cartoon controversy.

Fatwa issued against Terrorism

In the same vein, a council of U.S. Muslim clerics on Nov. 30 issued a fatwa, or religious edict, that said Muslims are religiously obligated to prevent terrorism.

138 international Muslim scholars wrote to Pope Benedict XVI in October to suggest that the common principles of "love of the One God, and love of the neighbor" could build a bridge of peace between Muslims and Christians.

King Abdullah meets Pope Benedict

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican - the first audience by the head of the Roman Catholic Church with a Saudi monarch.

The Vatican described the private meeting as "warm" and said the two men discussed the presence and hard work of Christians in Saudi Arabia.

Religious Shooting Sprees

Tragic same-day shootings at two religious centers in Colorado, a Youth With A Mission office in Arvada and New Life Church in Colorado Springs, left five people dead, including the gunman.

Wooing Faith Voters

Leading Democratic and Republican presidential candidates made conscious efforts in 2007 to woo more faith-based voters after admitting failure to do so in 2004.

Pat Robertson pronounced Rudy Giuliani an "acceptable" choice despite his support of abortion rights and civil unions and his three marriages.

Romney won the endorsement of the head of ultraconservative Bob Jones University; an anti-abortion former Southern Baptist pastor-turned-governor from the Bible Belt, Mike Huckabee, struggled to gain traction; and megachurch pastor Rick Warren invited Hillary Rodham Clinton to talk about AIDS.

Sex Scandals in the Catholic Church

The cost of the Roman Catholic Church U.S. sex abuse crisis surpassed $2.1 billion. More and more people are coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse by clergy.

Televangelist Fraud

Some of the biggest names in religious broadcasting ended the year under a cloud of scrutiny after Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, requested financial records in a probe of lavish spending by six television ministries, including two in North Texas: Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn.

Atheist Books & Movies

2007 may also be remembered for the rebirth of a reinvigorated atheist movement. Books that questioned religious belief topped best-seller lists – even among religious titles – throughout the year, including Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion.

The first movie from Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, "The Golden Compass," caused an e-mail forwarding frenzy among Christians because of the author's possible atheist agenda. The film opens to mixed reviews as Compass e-mails are simultaneously sent to spam folders.

Beijing Vs Dalai Lama and the Pope

Beijing dismissed as a "farce" the Congressional Gold Medal given to the Dalai Lama in October, accusing Washington of meddling in its ongoing feud with the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.

Beijing and the Vatican took small steps to end a diplomatic dispute over who can appoint bishops to China's state-run Catholic Church, with one eye on a possible first-ever papal trip to China.

Old Latin Mass Renewed

The pope had an eye on the past when he approved, in June, wider availability of the old Latin Mass. The Vatican also reaffirmed the primacy of the Catholic Church, saying Protestant bodies are not churches "in the proper sense."

California splits with US Church

In early December 2007, the Diocese of San Joaquin, Calif., voted to become the first diocese to secede from the U.S. church. Episcopal bishops continued their battle with conservatives over policies on human sexuality.

Diet of Eden

The “Garden of Eden” Diet, which encourages people to eat like Adam and Eve did (mainly vegetarian) for long life and vigorous health. The other was about the “God-Men” Movement, which maintains that Christianity has become, well, too wimpy.

Taliban kills Korean missionaries

The Taliban's capture and killing of two Korean missionaries in Afghanistan was one of the most widespread stories of 2007. Korean missionaries are renown for their stubborn single-mindedness and attempts to convert people. Obviously they offended the Taliban with their attempts to convert people.

U.S. Supreme Court upholds partial-birth abortion ban

The 5-4 decision marks the first national restriction on abortion since 1973's Roe v. Wade. It restricts women from getting one specific type of abortion.

When Abdullah met Benedict...

The two sides have no diplomatic ties, although when Abdullah was crown prince he met the late Pope John Paul II.

Correspondents say the visit comes as relations between the Vatican and the Muslim world are improving, more than a year after the crisis caused by a papal speech appearing to associate Islam with violence.

The 84-year-old Saudi monarch was on the third leg of his European tour after visiting the UK and Switzerland.

Pope Benedict warmly greeted King Abdullah at the Vatican on Tuesday, grasping both his hands before leading him to a library for their brief private meeting, which lasted only 30 minutes, with both leaders speaking through interpreters.

Afterwards, the king offered his host a gold sword encrusted with jewels. He was given a 16th Century engraving of the Vatican in return.

The Vatican said the talks allowed a wide discussion on the need for religious and cultural dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews "for the promotion of peace, justice and spiritual and moral values, especially in support of the family."

Both sides also emphasised the need for a "just solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Vatican said.

About a million Catholics, many of them migrant workers from the Philippines, live in the conservative desert kingdom, which is the home of Islam's holiest shrines.

They are allowed to worship in private, mostly in people's homes, but worship in public places and outward signs of faith, such as crucifixes, are forbidden.

Christians complain that rules are not clear and hardline Muslim authorities sometimes crack down on legitimate congregations.

"The most important thing is to get the possibility to gather in freedom and security for our worship, our masses and our activities," said Bishop Paul Hinder, responsible for Catholics in Arabia, in an interview with Reuters news agency.

The Saudi authorities cite a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad that only Islam can be practised in the Arabian Peninsula.

King Abdullah, who is styled the Custodian of the Two Sacred Mosques - in Mecca and Medina - is an advocate of cautious reform in Saudi Arabia, often against the wishes of the powerful conservative religious establishment.

The BBC's Frances Harrison in Rome says the symbolism of the meeting was huge for those who believe there should be more dialogue between Islam and Christianity, especially after the pontiff's controversial September 2006 speech at Regensburg University.

In it, he quoted Emperor Manuel II Paleologos of the Byzantine Empire, who said in the 14th Century that the Prophet Muhammad had brought only "evil and inhuman" things.

The pope later stressed that these had not been his own words and expressed regret for any offence they had caused.

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