Religion Today Summaries, October 31, 2002

Religion Today Summaries, October 31, 2002

In Today's Edition:

  • Bone Box with Earliest Jesus Reference Contains Bone Fragments in Dirt
  • 'Day of Dead' Celebration Could Culminate with Day in Court
  • Witness to Christian Massacre in Pakistan Released from Custody
  • Wiccans Offer Alternative to Boy Scouts

Bone Box with Earliest Jesus Reference Contains Bone Fragments in Dirt
(Baptists Press)  A limestone bone box dating to approximately 63 A.D. heralded as the only New Testament-era mention of Jesus apparently contains bone fragments at the bottom of the box, but the artifact's owner will not allow the chips to be analyzed.  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 ossuaries often contained several family members' bones, and radiocarbon dating may be able to determine whether the bone fragments date back to the first century.  Time Magazine quoted James Chatters, a Seattle-based archaeologist with forensic expertise, as saying it is "entirely possible" that DNA could be extracted from the remains.  "Most likely to be recovered would be the mitochondrial variety, which can provide a catalog of maternal traits," Time noted.  "Of course, if the ossuary was biblical, the mother (by the Gospels' most literal interpretation) would be Mary."

'Day of Dead' Celebration Could Culminate with Day in Court
Jim Brown and Jody Brown

(Agape Press)  The United States Justice Foundation, a pro-family law firm, is taking legal action against a California public school after district officials refused to cancel a controversial "Day of the Dead" celebration taking place this week. The fourth-grade event includes pagan rituals and a sexually explicit video.  "What they had the kids doing was literally building altars, bringing in pictures of dead relatives and dead pets to be placed on the altar for very specific remembrance," Richard Ackerman, counsel for the plaintiff, explains.  "I'm not disputing the celebration fits within a curriculum designed to give a historical perspective of Latino culture. That's not the issue.  It's when you step over the line and have students actually engage in the practices."  According to the attorney, the school is arguing that culture, religion, and state are all separable from each other. Superintendent Wong says the school is not teaching a specific religion, and that within the curriculum it is appropriate to teach about cultural events. And while he is confident the school has done nothing wrong, the district official acknowledges the potential for controversy exists.

Witness to Christian Massacre in Pakistan Released from Custody

(Charisma News Service)  Authorities have released a believer who survived last month's massacre of seven Christian charity workers in Karachi.  In police "protective custody" since the Sept. 25 attack, Piranditta, 27, was taken away by the authorities shortly after a high court judge declared his detention illegal and ordered his release.  Witnesses said authorities beat him and dragged him to a police wagon as he emerged from a courtroom.  Piranditta reportedly had suffered "severe physical and mental torture" while in the custody of the Criminal Investigation Agency.  Married with four children, Piranditta still has not been reunited with his wife, Elizabeth.  His wife and extended family have been threatened this week by police, who demanded that a petition for Piranditta's release be withdrawn, Compass reported.  Police so far have failed to identify any suspects in the massacre, which was the fifth anti-Christian assault in Pakistan since last October, when radical Muslims began targeting Christians in retaliation for President Pervez Musharraf's support for the U.S. war on terrorism.   Thirty-nine people have been killed and 75 injured in the attacks on churches and Christian institutions.

Wiccans Offer Alternative to Boy Scouts
Michael L. Betsch
( Frustrated by an unsuccessful campaign to achieve religious recognition from the Boy Scouts of America, a Seattle-based Wicca church has launched its own youth program, which is based on tolerance for different beliefs, including differences in sexual orientation.  SpiralScouts founder Pete 'Pathfinder' Davis believes that many of the things the Boy Scouts are doing are "socially inappropriate." He said he created to the SpiralScouts to "fill the void left by prejudicial treatment of other established children's programs."  It says it offers children the opportunity to develop interpersonal and life skills and a pagan world-view, in addition to learning "the usual handicrafts of scouting and woodland lore."  SpiralScouts welcomes homosexuals within its ranks. Davis explained that the Wiccan religion accommodates homosexuals because its philosophy is focused on the "balance of polarities" of that exist in nature.  According to the group's handbook, "SpiralScouts is something new, something perhaps of historic proportions for modern Paganism. It certainly will have an unmistakable impact on Pagan children growing up in this era of Christian extreme-right domination of our culture."  The Boy Scouts of America do not appear to be concerned about the new competition.