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Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 11, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 11, 2009

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

  • More U.S. Christians Mix in 'Eastern,' New Age Beliefs
  • Chinese Authorities Reportedly Tortured Top Rights Lawyer
  • Somali Christian Flees Refugee Camp Under Death Threat
  • Episcopal Church Membership Drops by 3 Percent

More U.S. Christians Mix in 'Eastern,' New Age Beliefs

USA Today reports that Eastern and New Age beliefs are creeping into Christian circles with increasing popularity. According to a new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 65 percent of American adults have adopted some element of Eastern faith or New Age practices. This includes Protestants and Catholics. Among Catholics, Pew found that one in five believes in earthly reincarnation despite the orthodox teaching of the Church. "Mixing and matching practices and beliefs is as much the norm as it is the exception," Pew's Alan Cooperman says. "Are they grazing, sampling, just curious? We really don't know." According to sociologist of religion Scott Thumma, a professor at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research in Hartford, Conn. "Today, the individual rarely finds all their spiritual needs met in one congregation or one religion."

Chinese Authorities Reportedly Tortured Top Rights Lawyer

The Christian Post reports that an imprisoned Chinese human right lawyer who disappeared in February now lives in a state "worse than death." According to right group ChinaAid Association, sources have been able to confirm that Gao Zhisheng has been subjected to severe beatings since his arrest in February. Gao's wife and two children were recently granted asylum in the U.S. after they fleeing China. Gao, who has been imprisoned before because of his work with house churches, was taken into custody in February after releasing an exposé on his previous jail time. "The electric shock baton was put all over me. And my full body, my heart, lungs and muscles began jumping under my skin uncontrollably. I was writhing on the ground in pain, trying to crawl away. Wang (one of the interrogators) then shocked me in my genitals," Gao wrote. ChinaAid has circulated a petition for Gao's release, and urges more people to contact U.S. officials on his behalf.

Somali Christian Flees Refugee Camp under Death Threat

Compass Direct News reports that a Somali Christian fled a refugee camp last month after multiple threats from newly arrived Muslims. Mohamud Muridi Saidi, a father of four, said the recent relocation of 13,000 refugees to the Kakuma camp, where he had lived since 2002, brought new problems to the family. Muslims arrived who knew of his father's Christian activities in his home village. After Somalis four times threw stones at Saidi's iron sheet home in the refugee camp, word spread that they intended to kill him. Case workers for a Lutheran World Federation (LWF) service group confirmed the death threat. "I know the attackers are the Muslims who forced us to leave Somalia in 2002," Saidi told Compass in Nairobi, adding that he was unable to bring his family with him when he fled on Nov. 23. "They are not safe, and that is why we should be out of Kakuma as soon as possible."

Episcopal Church Membership Drops by 3 Percent

Religion News Service reports that domestic membership in the Episcopal Church dropped by three percent in 2008. This continues a decline in which the denomination has lost almost 200,000 American members since 2004. The Episcopal Church now counts slightly more than 2 million members in about 7,000 U.S. parishes. Church leaders say they are pleased, however, that the denomination is growing in its non-domestic dioceses, particularly in Haiti and Latin America, where the church counted about 168,000 members in 470 parishes last year. Still, the church is "swimming against some difficult cultural tides," said Matilda Kistler, who heads a state-of-the-church committee in the denomination's House of Deputies. Kistler blamed a culture "gravitating toward secularism" and an aging church-going population. She acknowledged that "internal conflicts" within the denomination have also "distracted" from clergy.