Religion Today Summaries - May 3, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - May 3, 2006

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

  • What's Behind The Christian Exodus Movement?
  • Religious Leaders Continue to Pressure Sudan
  • Scholars Seek to Correct Christian Tradition on Mary Magdalene
  • Doctors Don't Mind Talking Religion With Patients

What's Behind The Christian Exodus Movement?

Evangelical Christian Cory Burnell is the the founder and leader of a group called Christian Exodus (CE). CBS 13 in Sacramento reports that CE's mission is to move thousands of evangelicals to the state of South Carolina over the next 10 years to establish a new Christian nation. In Burnell's words, CE desires “to reestablish constitutionally limited government founded upon Christian principles [that] are standard Christian articles of faith.” Burnell calls CE a simple voter mobilization project - putting Christians with biblical politics into public office to create change. Burnell acknowledges that even if he's able to take control of the state, the Federal Government might not make the changes he wants. In that case, the backup plan would be secession - the creation of a separate country. “Secession is such a bad word these days," Burnell says. "Of course, in 1776 the colonies seceded from Britain and we call that independence." CE's business card reads: "United we murder babies. Celebrate sodomy. Evolve from monkeys. It's time we separate!" CE claims to already have about 150 members in South Carolina. Critics have called CE's vision "clouded" and "cult-like," and stated that Burnell's plan of "starting a religious based government would be easier than maintaining it."

Religious Leaders Continue to Pressure Sudan

Rabbi David Saperstein cried "Never again." Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, said "Now is the time." And Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) asked: "If not this, what? If not now, when? If not us, who?" The three religious leaders joined politicians, humanitarian workers, entertainers, athletes and other faith leaders in denouncing the ongoing violence in the Darfur region of Sudan during a major rally on Sunday April 30. Religion News Service reported that the crowd of more than 50,000 was one of the largest ever assembled to push for the end to ethnic killing in Darfur. The religious leaders said they would launch an interfaith effort to push for more action. Saperstein will lead an effort with reps from the SBC and the National Council of Churches to form a new coalition that will visit every embassy of countries belonging to NATO and the African Union - as well as Russia and China - to press for an end to the violence.

Scholars Seek to Correct Christian Tradition on Mary Magdalene

The fictions in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code are not the only errors about Mary Magdalene that modern scholars are seeking to correct. Catholic News Service reports that historians are also trying to set straight centuries of erroneous Christian tradition regarding her that evolved over time in the West. While Greek Orthodox tradition always held that Mary Magdalene, the unnamed repentant sinner who cried on Jesus' feet, and Mary of Bethany were three distinct women, a sermon by Pope St. Gregory in 591 identified the three figures as one woman, creating the notion of Mary Magdalene as a repentant sinful woman, possibly a prostitute. Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, a theologian at Fordham University, said the version of Mary as "the prostitute to whom Jesus forgave much and who loved him... took on a profound Christian ideal of a sinner who repents and therefore is a model for Christians in that way. But what got lost in the process was her actual role as a leader of witnessing to the Resurrection in the early church." Sister Elizabeth said that when one looks at Mary being the one the risen Christ appears to and commissions to announce the good news to the others, it has "many implications for how we tell the story... There is the typical story where Jesus chose the 12 and put Peter in charge, and the women were accessories. When you put Mary Magdalene into the picture, you can't tell the story that way so simply anymore."

Doctors Don't Mind Talking Religion With Patients

A FOX News story cites a new University of Chicago survey which suggests the vast majority of doctors are willing to discuss religion with patients, but only about half initiate such conversations. That said, physicians are unlikely to recommend prayer, and very rarely will they pray with a patient. "Despite efforts to standardize many aspects of the doctor-patient relationship... patients are likely to encounter very different approaches" in discussing faith or religion with doctors, said study author Farr Curlin, assistant professor of medicine. Of the 1,144 doctors (out of 2,000 from all specialties) who responded to the survey, 18% said they were neither religious nor spiritual, while 17% identified themselves as being both highly religious and highly spiritual. They were a mix of 39% Protestant, 22% Catholic, 16% Jewish, 13% from other religions, and 11% who reported no religion. More than 90% of the doctors said it is appropriate to discuss religious or spiritual issues when a patient brings them up, while another 75% encourage patients' religious beliefs and practices. The study was published in the May issue of the journal Medical Care.