Religion Today Summaries - March 13, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - March 13, 2006

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

  • Record Numbers Flocking to Christian Colleges
  • Gay Rights Group Targets Christian Colleges
  • Evangelical Group Seeks Conversions of U.S. Muslims
  • 'Jesus Decoded' Site Launched to Counter Claims in 'Da Vinci Code'

Record Numbers Flocking to Christian Colleges

A story in the Chicago Tribune reports that Evangelical Christian colleges are attracting record numbers of applications this year in a trend that bodes well for schools that were struggling to survive just a generation ago. Applications have jumped between 8 percent and 10 percent at the 238 colleges that belong to the North American Association of Christian Admissions Professionals. 25 percent of those schools are barely breaking even financially, so the news is good even though the enhanced competition for spots means disappointment for some high school seniors who thought their credentials were good enough to get in. "On Jan. 15, we had thousands and thousands of applications from students who in prior years would have been admissible, but we had to wait-list them," said James Steen, assistant vice president of admission and enrollment services at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Standards seem to be rising, too, as the average SATest score among Baylor applicants is now 1225, up from 1198 at this point last year. At the 102 evangelical schools belonging to the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, enrollment has increased 70 percent since 1990, from 135,000 to 230,000, marks a turnaround from the 1960s and 1970s, when religious colleges struggled to attract enough students.

Gay Rights Group Targets Christian Colleges

For the next seven weeks, the national pro-gay activist group Soulforce will test the hospitality of Christian colleges, reports Christianity Today. Reactions among Christian institutions has varied, as some have opted to accomodate Soulforce, while others have pulled back the welcome mat. Sixteen Christian colleges are preparing for the uninvited guests from the bus tour which Soulforce has dubbed 'Equality Ride.' 35 gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and straight 18- to 28-year-olds will visit campuses with behavior codes that Soulforce calls discriminatory for their policies banning homosexual behavior and other non-marital sexual activity. Among the schools Soulforce will visit, 12 are members and three are affiliates of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. CCCU president Bob Andringa told CT he has not seen protests at colleges like this in his 12 years heading the council. "I think this is a significant event," says Wheaton College Provost Stan Jones. "I think it signals a heightening of the pressure that's going to be on our institution as we are discordant with the general culture on our stand of sexual morality."

Evangelical Group Seeks Conversions of U.S. Muslims

John Marion, the project director of Truth For Muslims, says you don't need to go to a foreign country to evangelize Muslims, according to a Spero News report. Truth for Muslims is an evangelical Christian group that believes Texas is as ripe a place to spread its message as the Middle East. On his website, Marion writes that "Islam means submission. The word Muslim refers to one who submits. This submission is focused entirely on Mohammed and the ideology he created." From his Virginia office near Washington, DC, Marion says, "During the past 1400 years there has been no greater challenge to the Christian gospel than Islam. We're meeting the challenge of Islam through evangelism, teaching, and public speaking." Marion says that those working with him are committed to praying for Muslims and evangelizing them with the message of Christ. The current Truth For Muslims newsletter publishes Marion's "18 Truths About Reaching Muslims in America With the Gospel," and includes such statements as: "The clear commands of Christ compel us to bring the gospel to Muslims, whatever the cost." Since 9/11, Marion says he has turned his attention to helping Christians meet the challenge of Islam in America. "The gospel is so different from the teachings of Mohammed, but not everyone understands how big the difference is between the two. I'm looking for more Christians in Texas to help me get the message out to people across the country," Marion says.

'Jesus Decoded' Site Launched to Counter Claims in 'Da Vinci Code'

A new Web site has been established to provide accurate information about the life of Jesus and the origins of Christianity to counter claims made in Dan Brown's best-selling novel "The Da Vinci Code." The Web site,, was launched March 9 by the U.S. bishops' Catholic Communication Campaign. Catholic News Service reports that the site contains information that refutes claims made in the book about the nature of Jesus; his relationship with Mary Magdalene; the first four ecumenical councils of the early church; contemporaneous accounts of Jesus' life that were not selected for the New Testament; the historical role of women in the church; and the "Last Supper" paintings by Leonardo da Vinci and other artists. Also found on the site are a CNS "Vatican Letter" column by John Thavis, the CNS Rome Bureau chief, on the level of Vatican reaction to the book and forthcoming movie. "Many of my students and myself included enjoy a good, fast-paced novel, and enjoyed 'The Da Vinci Code'... as a tall tale of adventure," said Alan Schreck, chairman of the theology department at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, who contributed an essay to the Web site on early church ecumenical councils. "There's a level where this book is appealing to people. That is what makes it dangerous... if they believe it's a historical representation or an accurate theological presentation." Rather than cover up the truth about Jesus, as the novel suggests, the early church councils tried to uncover the truth, according to Schreck.