Religion Today Summaries, October 23, 2002

Religion Today Summaries, October 23, 2002

In Today's Edition:

  • Government Officials and Clergy Hold Prayer Service in Response to Sniper Attacks
  • Earliest Reference to Jesus Reported on Limestone Bone Box from 63 A.D.
  • President Signs Important Sudan Peace Act
  • Canadian Christians Concerned Over Pending 'Hate Crimes' Bill

>>  Government Officials and Clergy Hold Prayer Service in Response to Sniper Attacks

Tuesday evening, October 22, elected officials from Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia joined clergy from diverse religious groups and community leaders at Faith United Methodist Church in Rockville Maryland for a prayer service in response to the recent string of murders by the so-called “Beltway Sniper”.  The gathering was intended to voice united support for law enforcement efforts to find and arrest the sniper who has claimed over ten lives in the region during the past three weeks. Religious leaders also expressed support for victims families, offer counseling assistance to the general community, and a call for the region and the nation to join in prayer for healing from the senseless shootings that have occurred recently in Maryland, Washington. D.C., and Virginia.  The sniper remains at large as a general sense of fear continues to spread throughout the region. 

>>  Earliest Reference to Jesus Reported on Limestone Bone Box from 63 A.D.
Art Toalston – Baptist Press

A limestone bone box dating to approximately 63 A.D. is being heralded as "the only New Testament-era mention of the central figure of Christianity," according to the Biblical Archaeology Review.  It is "the first-ever archaeological discovery to corroborate biblical references to Jesus," the journal states.  It apparently once contained the bones of James, the brother of Jesus. An inscription on the box reads, "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.”  The family relationships contained on the new find helped experts ascertain that the inscription very likely refers to the biblical James, brother of Jesus (see, for example, Matthew 13:55-56 and Galatians 1:18-19). Although all three names were common in ancient times, the statistical probability of their appearing in that combination is extremely slim. In addition, the mention of a brother is unusual -- indicating that this Jesus must have been a well-known figure.  "The James ossuary may be the most important find in the history of New Testament archaeology," said Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review. "It has implications not just for scholarship, but for the world's understanding of the Bible."

>>  President Signs Important Sudan Peace Act

On Monday, October 21, President Bush signed the Sudan Peace Act, which may become and important tool in the effort to bring the atrocities being committed against Sudanese Christians by the government of that country to an end.  President Bush had this to say about the legislation, "I have today signed into law H.R. 5531, the "Sudan Peace Act." This Act demonstrates the clear resolve of the United States to promote a lasting, just peace; human rights; and freedom from persecution for the people of Sudan. The Act is designed to help address the evils inflicted on the people of Sudan by their government -- including senseless suffering, use of emergency food relief as a weapon of war, and the practice of slavery -- and to press the parties, and in particular the Sudanese Government, to complete in good faith the negotiations to end the war."  Pro-family group Family Research Council praised the move.  However, FRC was also quick to state that the ultimate goal in the region should be not only peace, but also justice for the people of southern Sudan.

>>  Canadian Christians Concerned Over Pending 'Hate Crimes' Bill
Fred Jackson – AgapePress

A federal hate crimes bill making its way through the Canadian Parliament could signal what's in store for American Christians should similar efforts succeed in the U.S.  An open homosexual and member of the Canadian Parliament is pushing to have sexual orientation added as a protected category in Canada's genocide and hate crimes legislation.  Pro-family groups in that country are raising the alarm that it could well lead to outlawing any criticism of homosexuality.  WorldNetDaily says there have already been incidents at the provincial level in Canada where people who have done just that paid a high price.  For example, a Saskatchewan man recently was fined $5,000 for buying a newspaper ad that quoted verses from the Bible condemning homosexual behavior.  In addition, two years ago in Ontario, a human rights commission leveled a $5,000 fine against a Christian businessman who refused to print letterhead for a pro-homosexual group.  In a current case in British Columbia, a teacher is facing the loss of his job for making statements critical of homosexuality -- even though he made his comments outside the classroom.