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Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 29, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 29, 2006

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

  • Christianity - not Communism - now Offering People Hope in Moscow
  • Priests Form New Society to Take on Abortion, Euthanasia
  • So. Baptists Bolster Relief in Lebanon, Israel
  • Five Years Later: 9/11 Attacks Show No Lasting Influence on Americans’ Faith

Christianity - not Communism - now Offering People Hope in Moscow

A tiny group of aging communists gathered in front of the red-brick edifice of the Lenin Museum to mark the 15th anniversary of a failed coup –- and to bemoan the end of the Soviet empire. Baptist Press reports a few elderly true-believers held red flags bearing the communist hammer and sickle, while speakers called for the return of communism. “Leninism! Stalinism! Death to capitalism!” they chanted at one point. Mostly, onlookers ignored the small band of demonstrators. The elderly communists seemed sadly out of place. Meanwhile, Christianity is seeing new life in the Russian capital, where it once was persecuted and nearly crushed. A day after the communist rally commemorating the 15th anniversary, two women were baptized openly in the Moscow Canal –- the first baptisms of a Baptist house church begun a year ago in the northern part of the city. Worshippers gathered on the banks of the canal to watch and celebrate as the two were immersed in the chilly water. Afterward, the small congregation sang and took part in the Lord’s Supper. Russian Christians are offering hope to seekers in Moscow -– and making new history, not reliving events long past.

Priests Form New Society to Take on Abortion, Euthanasia

A new society of priests focused on fighting abortion and euthanasia has received the Vatican's blessing at a dedication ceremony in Amarillo, Texas. AgapePress reports the Missionaries of the Gospel of Life is a diocesan society under the authority of Amarillo Bishop John Yanta. Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, became the new society's first member at last night's ceremony, at which Lay Associates also were admitted. Plans call for the society's priests and seminarians to take on political as well as religious roles, from conducting voter-registration drives and lobbying elected officials to developing strategies for anti-abortion groups.

So. Baptists Bolster Relief in Lebanon, Israel

As the United Nations mobilizes troops to maintain a fragile ceasefire, Baptist Press reports Southern Baptists are stepping up relief efforts in Lebanon and Israel, funneling more than a half-million dollars in aid into the war-torn region. Most of the devastation is concentrated in southern Lebanon, an area recently visited by a Southern Baptist medical assessment team. “They’ve got no possessions left; there is not a single chair that’s intact,” a Christian medical worker said. “Everything is smashed and covered with concrete. The smell of dead bodies, either human or animal, is prevalent in these communities.” So far, Baptist partners in both nations have distributed $100,000 worth of supplies –- food, water, temporary latrines and showers, medicine and cleaning supplies -– to people displaced by the fighting. “We never show any kind of favoritism,” a Southern Baptist relief consultant said. “We’re distributing aid to anyone who has need, regardless of their faith.” An additional $250,000 has been earmarked to provide more of the same, as well as blankets and portable heaters for the region’s rapidly approaching winter.

Five Years Later: 9/11 Attacks Show No Lasting Influence on Americans’ Faith

As the United States nears the fifth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, The Barna Group's latest study shows the faith of Americans is virtually indistinguishable today compared to pre-attack conditions. The study examined data from nine national surveys, involving interviews with more than 8,600 adults, conducted right before the attacks and at regular intervals since then. They found an intense surge in religious activity and expression in the weeks immediately following 9/11. But of the 19 dimensions of spirituality and beliefs explored, none of those 19 are statistically different today from the summer before the attacks. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, half of all Americans said their faith helped them cope with the shock and uncertainty. The change most widely reported was a significant spike in church attendance, with some churches experiencing more than double their normal crowd on the Sunday after the shocking event. However, by the time January 2002 rolled around, churchgoing was back to pre-attack levels, and has remained consistent in the five years since.