Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 15, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 15, 2006

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

  • Iranian Attack on Israel Feared
  • Appeals Urged for 3 Indonesians Despite Execution Postponment; New Date Looms
  • Barna Survey Offers a Profile of How Americans See Themselves
  • Religion-Related Fraud Getting Worse

Iranian Attack on Israel Feared

Some Islamic scholars worry that Iran's president may launch an attack on Jerusalem, perhaps with a nuclear missile, a week from Tuesday, AgapePress reports. That is the date when Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to heaven from Jerusalem. It is also the date Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has picked to reply to Western demands that he renounce efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Professor Joseph Kickasola, an Islamic scholar at Regent University, says Ahmadinejad believes he has a God-given mission to prepare the way for the Muslim messiah, or mahdi, who will arise from end-times chaos to convert the world to Islam. Kickasola says that while a nuclear strike on Jerusalem would kill Muslims as well as Jews and Christians, Iran's president believes the Muslims would be ushered into paradise.

Appeals Urged for 3 Indonesians Despite Execution Postponment; New Date Looms

A last-minute stay of execution was issued by Indonesian authorities for three ethnic Christians sentenced to death for inciting Christian-Muslim violence on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island in 2000, Baptist Press reports. The country’s national police chief, Gen. Sutanto, announced the stay of execution minutes before the three men were to face a firing squad just after midnight, AP reported Aug. 11. In Washington, Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, a human rights organization that had rallied against the executions, issued a call for continued efforts in behalf of the three men. King recounted that the Indonesian government has scheduled the execution of three Muslim militants on Aug. 22 for their convictions in the 2002 bombings that killed 202 people in nation’s Bali resort area. The government “views the executions of these Christians as a way to balance justice –- very important in Indonesian society,” King said.

Barna Survey Offers a Profile of How Americans See Themselves

An analysis of how Americans perceive themselves in relation to 33 different descriptions studied in research conducted by The Barna Group reveals that adults generally see themselves as good people, spiritually stable, and living a good and honorable life. Yet, despite the spiritual focus people claim, the study found that people’s lifestyles, attitudes and self-perceptions are more likely to be affected by their life-stage and ethnic culture than by their faith commitments. Most adults said they are “a good citizen” (97%), “friendly” (94%) and “generous” (90%). At least eight out of ten claimed to “feel at peace” (83%), to be “clear about the meaning and purpose of your life” (81%), and to be “making a positive difference in the world” (80%).

Religion-Related Fraud Getting Worse

The Christian Post reports that billions of dollars has been stolen in religion-related fraud in recent years, according to the North American Securities Administrators Association. Between 1984 and 1989, about $450 million was stolen in religion-related scams. In the latest count – from 1998 to 2001 – the toll had risen to $2 billion, with rip-offs becoming more common. "The size and the scope of the fraud is getting larger," said Patricia Struck, president of the securities association and administrator of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, Division of Securities. "The scammers are getting smarter and the investors don't ask enough questions because of the feeling that they can be safe in church." Cases in recent years show just how vulnerable religious communities are. One such case involved Randall W. Harding, who sang in the choir at Crossroads Christian Church in Corona, Calif., and donated part of his conspicuous wealth to its ministries. In his business dealings, he underscored his faith by naming his investment firm JTL, or "Just the Lord." Pastors and churchgoers alike entrusted their money to him. By the time Harding was unmasked as a fraud, he and his partners had stolen more than $50 million from their clients.