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Grab a company charge card: What religion reference works belong in newsroom libraries?

Grab a company charge card: What religion reference works belong in newsroom libraries?

My May 30 Memo proclaimed the third edition of the “World Christian Encyclopedia," due next year, as a “must-buy” for media organizations because it will provide current overviews and statistics about each religious group in each country on earth, and much else.

This time around, The Guy proposes other religion works media shops savvy enough to maintain reference libraries should have on hand for unexpected breaking news as well as timeless features. Writers might want some items in their personal collections. The following covers print, but some e-editions are available.

Basics

The first essential is a couple comprehensive one-volume encyclopedias or dictionaries describing all world religions, as issued by several reliable publishers. You’ll also want the hefty ($215!) “Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.”

Save money by using a good public or college library for the multi-volume encyclopedias on religion, Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaica, Islam, etc. However, via amazon.com you could get the 1987 “Encyclopedia of Religion” for only $275. (Publishers: We really need a 21st Century equivalent of James Hastings’ less abstract “Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics” from 1913!)  

Acquire similar one-volume reference books on Catholicism and Judaism, which on some matters can be supplemented by century-old, multi-volume encyclopedias online here and here. For Protestantism, there’s the latest “Handbook of Denominations in the United States” and more comprehensive one-volume “Encyclopedia of Protestantism.” For Islam, get John Esposito’s dictionary and/or Cyril Glasse’s one-volume encyclopedia. For other world faiths, if those overview volumes do not suffice  tap experts as needed.  

 Baylor professor Gordon Melton compiles the remarkable “Encyclopedia of American Religions,” pretty much mandatory for describing gazillion offbeat sects you’ve never heard of.

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Fake News? The Economist team doesn't know where Liberty University is located

Fake News? The Economist team doesn't know where Liberty University is located

If you were going to create a Top 10 list of high-quality journalism institutions in our world today, surely The Economist would be in there somewhere.

Now let's put a different spin on that. If you were going to create a list of prestigious publications that do not deserve the label "Fake News," I would imagine that The Economist would make that list.

So what are you supposed to do when you hit the spew-your-coffee moment in this new piece that was published in that elite magazine over in England, the feature that ran under the headline:

Faith and higher education can intersect in many different ways

An ever-shifting relationship between campus and church

The piece opens with a discussion of a recent address at Oxford University by Father John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, on the subject of academic and intellectual freedom.

Then there is this piece of analysis, which contains the spew-worthy error mentioned earlier. Wait for it.

To some American conservatives, this emphasis on free-ranging inquiry, rather than the axioms of faith, will only confirm what they suspected: that Notre Dame and other historically Catholic colleges are drifting far from their Christian roots and are on the road to becoming virtually identical to secular places of learning. But the real situation is more interesting. In the ecology of American higher education, there are many different relationships with religion. There are zealously Christian establishments like Liberty University in Tennessee, which may be the largest non-profit college in the world, with 15,000 students at its Lynchburg campus and another 110,000 engaged in online learning. First-year students take Bible classes and there is a “code of honour” that bars extra-marital sex.

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Turn, turn, turn: It's time to take religious stock of the Obama Era

 Turn, turn, turn: It's time to take religious stock of the Obama Era

As journalists look back to take stock of President Obama’s legacy, religious aspects deserve some attention. The Washington Post’s “Acts of Faith” blog posted an example January 12 from  Peter Manseau, co-founder of the pleasantly skeptical KillingTheBuddha.com, who scanned America’s history of pluralism in last year’s “One Nation Under Gods.”

Pursuing his book’s theme, Manseau proposed that this president “has embraced a more inclusive approach to religion than any of his predecessors.” But in making himself “the nation’s pluralist-in-chief” Obama “seems to have had an opposite effect in much of the country.” As his presidency wanes, he “leads a nation more divided along religious lines than at any other time in recent history.”

All of Manseau’s assertions are open to debate and worth pursuing by journalists.

Biographical recap: The president’s father Barack Senior, who abandoned Barack Junior, was born Muslim in Kenya but was an atheist as an adult. (Nonetheless, under a strict interpretation of Islamic law the son is automatically a Muslim, and in certain jurisdictions would be subject to execution as an apostate for forsaking his birth religion.)

Obama Junior was raised by a freethinking mother who taught her son about various religious paths. During their years in Indonesia he attended both Muslim and Catholic schools. Later, Obama was raised by grandparents who had been sometime Unitarians.

As an adult, the president-to-be converted to the liberal wing of “mainline” Protestantism. He was baptized at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, led by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, attended regularly, was married at Trinity and had his daughters baptized there.

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Raise your hand, if you know the definition of 'blasphemy' in modern Pakistan

Raise your hand, if you know the definition of 'blasphemy' in modern Pakistan

One of the toughest issues in reporting about any complex subject -- take religion for example -- is knowing how much background material needs to be included in a story for readers to be able to grasp the basic issues surrounding a piece of news.

So before we get to the actual event covered in this international-desk piece from the New York Times -- "Boy’s Response to Blasphemy Charge Unnerves Many in Pakistan" -- let's jump ahead to the background material. I thought this section of the story was especially strong, since the reporter had very few paragraphs to spare in a relatively short story.

By the way, this passage ends with what I considered a major piece of tech news, one worthy of its own story.

Blasphemy is a toxic subject in Pakistan, where a confusing body of laws has enshrined it as a potentially capital offense but also makes it nearly impossible for the accused to defend themselves in court. Even publicly repeating details of the accusation is tantamount to blasphemy in its own right.
Such cases almost never make it to court, however. The merest accusation that blasphemy has occurred has the power to arouse lynching or mob violence.
The governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his own bodyguard in 2011, after Mr. Taseer criticized the country’s blasphemy laws and defended a Christian woman who had been falsely accused under them. The assassin is a national hero to many devout Pakistanis: His jail cell has become a pilgrimage site, and a mosque was renamed to honor him.

And that tech story?

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Final questions: Who wrote the New Testament's Book of Revelation?

Final questions: Who wrote the New Testament's Book of Revelation?

JOHN (the perfect name for this question) ASKS

I thought the John of Revelation was the Beloved Disciple. The sermon today tried to disabuse me of that notion. What do we know about this?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: 

One cherished Christmas tradition is dramatic presentation of the story of Jesus via Handel’s “Messiah,” the most-beloved, most-performed musical setting of Bible verses ever composed.  This 1742 oratorio concludes with a stirring chorus taken from the Book of Revelation 5:9,12-14 in the King James Version:

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain and hath redeemed us to God by his blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing…. Blessing and honor, glory and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever…. Amen.”

Who received this book’s elaborate vision and wrote it down? That’s among many mysteries about Revelation, a.k.a. the Apocalypse, along with what its many lurid symbols mean, and whether it addresses 1st Century persecution, church struggles throughout history, future culmination in the end times, or some combination. The early church, especially in the East, was reluctant and late in deciding this unusual book belonged in the New Testament.

The text names the writer as a “John” who lived on the island of Patmos off the coast of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) due to “tribulation” and testimony to Jesus Christ, indicating he was in forced exile. There is early and strong tradition that this was John, the “beloved” apostle among the Twelve chosen by Jesus, though the text doesn’t say so.

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Holy Screwtape! Young C.S. Lewis secretly worked with MI6?

Holy Screwtape! Young C.S. Lewis secretly worked with MI6?

I don't know about you, but for years now I have grown increasingly skeptical about a lot of the books and other products that continue to roll out from the publishing industry that surrounds the life and work of the great Oxford don and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis.

Don't get me wrong. I have an entire room of my house that, basically, is dedicated to Eastern Orthodox icons, my family and C.S. Lewis. My son's middle name is "Lewis" and we almost used "Jack" as his first name. I read "The Great Divorce" every year during Lent.

But, honestly, it's almost like we've reached the point where people would publish an annotated edition of this man's grocery lists, should they become available. There are still fine books being published about the Narnian, but I've grown more skeptical about some of work produced by the C.S. Lewis industrial complex.

And then someone comes up with an interesting twist in the life of Lewis. In this case, Christianity Today has just published an online essay -- by scholar Harry Lee Poe of Union University here in Tennessee -- that is a bit of a news scoop. It argues that, while no one is claiming Lewis ever ran around with a gun and a decoder ring, the young Oxford don appears to have done some work for MI6, as in Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Yes, you read that right. This kind of adds a new layer of meaning to discussions of an "Inner Ring" and talk about devilish high-ranking agents working with case officers to snare souls. Here is how it starts:

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Concerning C.S. Lewis, Christian apologist (not theologian)

The mistake showed up in news reports so often that it almost became normal, which is the worst possible thing that can happen with a mistake. Over and over, journalists kept pinning the “theologian” label on the Rev. Martin Marty of the School of Divinity at the University of Chicago.

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Dawkins talks 2.0, and Anglicans just can't catch a break

At the moment, the Rt. anti-Rev. Richard Dawkins is — logically enough — in full-tilt, set-on-stun PR mode for his new book, “An Appetite for Wonder: the Making of a Scientist.” The goal is to make headlines and move volumes and, as the old saying goes, a headline is a headline.

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