Religion Today Summaries - May 5, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 5, 2008

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Obama-Wright Rift Reveals Divided Loyalties in Black Church
  • 'Blasphemy' Issue Surfaces in Legal Tensions in Nigeria
  • 'Expelled' Producer Happy with Box Office
  • Charges Shift against Christian Bookstore Owner in China

Obama-Wright Rift Reveals Divided Loyalties in Black Church

An Associated Press story states that Sen. Barack Obama's break with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is putting black pastors and their congregations in a difficult position, with their loyalties divided. Ministers say the situation is complicated because there's a sense that both men have been treated unfairly, despite both having made mistakes. Wright lost some of the initial support he'd had from ministers after claiming the U.S. government was capable of planting AIDS in the black community, praising Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and suggesting Obama was acting like a politician, putting his pastor at arm's length while privately agreeing with him. Obama then denounced Wright's comments as "divisive and destructive," just six weeks after portraying Wright as a family member he couldn't disown. Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, senior pastor of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, said, "What I am disappointed in is Rev. Wright's continuing to be in the public eye. If he has a point to get across, make your point." Meanwhile, The Rev. William Revely questioned how Obama could honestly claim not to have heard some of Wright's contentious remarks from the pulpit: "Anybody who has heard Jeremiah preach has heard that. Jeremiah, he's a pastor, and as a pastor you have to see things as they are. Politicians see things as they want them to be."

'Blasphemy' Issue Surfaces in Legal Tensions in Nigeria

Last Friday April 25, the Supreme Court of Nigeria confirmed the death sentence for Abdullahi Ada and others involved in the murder of Abdullahi Umaru, condemned for “blasphemy” of Muhammad in Kebbi state in 1999, Compass Direct News reports. Justice George Oguntade ordered that Ada be hanged until confirmed dead. With sharia in force in Kebbi and 11 other states in northern Nigeria – though supposed to be applied only to Muslims – the high court judgment has further prompted Muslim calls for legislation against “blasphemy.” The National Assembly is amending the 1999 constitution, and Muslim leaders in northern Nigeria’s Kano state have called for a national law against “blasphemy,” leaving Christian leaders fearful that Islamic law could be used to arbitrarily put Christians to death.

'Expelled' Producer Happy with Box Office

Entering its third weekend, Ben Stein's "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" had entered the Top 15 on the all-time list for documentary films -– a distinction that some say is a solid box office achievement, but others say is a small feat, Baptist Press reports. Associate producer Mark Mathis is among those who are pleased. The film had grossed nearly $5.8 million through April 30, which places it at No. 14 on the all-time list. Whether Expelled can finish in the Top 10 all-time will be determined in the next couple weekends. "It's done exceptionally well when you look at it as a documentary film," Mathis said. "... We're pretty pleased. Different people have different expectations. Ask anybody who puts out a project like this, 'Do you think you could have done better?' most people are going to say, 'Yeah, I think we could have done better.' You just have these high hopes for it." Just like any other documentary, the challenge all along has been to get people to the theater to learn about a subject -– the cultural battle between evolution and Intelligent Design –- that some would call boring."

Charges Shift against Christian Bookstore Owner in China

An advocacy organization reported this week that Chinese authorities now accuse a Beijing businessman of being a “dangerous religious element” – which a long-time friend dismissed as contrary to Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan’s gentle, patriotic nature, Compass Direct News reports. Authorities have been slow to reveal charges against Shi, who after his original arrest for “illegal business practices” on November 28, 2007 was released on January 4 due to “insufficient evidence.” Re-arrested on March 19 for printing Bibles and Christian literature, Shi until last week had been denied a visit by his attorney. Following that visit, China Aid Association reported on April 28 that authorities were holding Shi as a “dangerous religious element.” Long-time friend Ray Sharpe said that Shi’s many foreign relationships as a travel agent may have raised undue suspicions by Chinese authorities, doubly ironic as the bookstore owner has been promoting the Olympic Games later this year and is anything but critical of Chinese policy.