Religion Today Summaries - July 19, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff | Thursday, July 19, 2007

Religion Today Summaries - July 19, 2007

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

  • Plans Underway for 'World's Largest Cross' in Nazareth
  • Malaysians Fear Advance of Hard-Line Islam
  • Anglican Church Preparing to Preach Potter's Missionary Message
  • Christian Fantasy Genre Building as Answer to Potter

Plans Underway for 'World's Largest Cross' in Nazareth

The Christian Post reports that a group of Christian businessmen in Israel are planning to build the largest cross in the world in the boyhood town of Jesus. The initial private building plan for the “Nazareth Cross” calls for a structure 60 meters high decorated by 7.2 million mosaic tiles of Nazareth stone. The site will be an attempt to draw tourism to the struggling economy of Nazareth as well as pay homage to the early life of Christ. The project's website says: “Nazareth is the starting point for Christian pilgrimage. Here Gabriel proclaimed to the Virgin: ‘Hail, highly favored one!’ An estimated 300,000 pilgrims flock to Nazareth each year, in addition to the hundred thousand local visitors. They come to see this special place where Jesus spent most of His Life and from where He started His public ministry.”

Malaysians Fear Advance of Hard-Line Islam

Recent demolitions of non-Muslim worship centers has raised fears that hard-line Islam is gaining control in Malaysia, despite constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, Baptist Press reports. "Why did the government tear down our church when they say we are free to choose our religion?" asked pastor Sazali Pengsang after his congregation's brick building was leveled by local authorities. Officials in Kampung Jias said the building was constructed without proper approval, but church members said Malaysian law requires no approval to build on land they own. Kelantan province is controlled by a hard-line political party, Parti Islam se-Malaysia, which wants to establish an Islamic state governed by Sharia law.

Anglican Church Preparing to Preach Potter's Missionary Message

According to The Times Online, the Church of England is publishing a guide called Mixing it up with Harry Potter and advising youth workers how to use the books and movies to spread the gospel and engage discussion. The workers were told this week that they could use the popularity of Potter to debate Christian themes. The guide is being published this week by Church House Publishing. Desipte the Potter series having been attacked by evangelicals for glamorizing the occult, the Rt. Rev. John Pritchard, the Bishop of Oxford, said: “Jesus used storytelling to engage and challenge his listeners. There’s nothing better than a good story to make people think, and there’s plenty in the Harry Potter books to make young people think about the choices they make in their everyday lives and their place in the world.”

Christian Fantasy Genre Building as Answer to Potter

A story in the Washington Post wonders: "Could the next Harry Potter be a devout Christian?" Just as the final Harry Potter book is due in stores, a new breed of fantasy fiction with mystical creatures, macabre events, epic battles and heroic young protagonists is emerging. However, in this genre readers will find overt Christian themes: "messiah-like kings who return from the dead, fallen satanic characters and young heroes who undergo profound conversions." Conversely, there won't be any wand-waving or spell-casting. Christian fantasy has, until very recently, not sold well, but industry analysts are saying the brand has caught fire, thanks to Christians looking for Harry Potter alternatives.