LET A BILLION BELIEVERS BLOOM
A new survey finds that the number of people in China who consider themselves religious adherents is much higher than previously believed. China, of course, under Communist rule, has had a terrible record of defending its citizens' religious rights. For a report on that subject from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, click here. What these new survey findings mean is unclear for the long term, but almost anything -- anything -- that affects a nation the size of China is important. So this is a development worth following.
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JEWISH SHELTER FROM THE COLD
PHILADELPHIA -- It was cold the other day when I was here. Cold and very windy.
As my book-writing colleague, Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn, and I were walking the downtown streets between appointments, a couple of gusts hit us. But not to fear, he says, just beyond those trees is a fascinating old synagogue I'll show you to get out of the cold.
That was how I got a look at Congregation Mikveh Israel, known as the Synagogue of the Revolution. It dates to the late 1700s, with some roots even earlier. The congregation joins the Spanish and Portuguese Sephardic traditions with the development of Jewry in America.
Its first house of worship was constructed in 1782, though since then it has moved several times. It came to its current location on Independence Mall in 1976, and shares a site with the National Museum of American Jewish History, which it founded.
Click here for information on the tapestry pictured on the blog today.
The chair you see pictured here is in the sanctuary and is called an Elijah Chair. For some intriguing background on that, click here. Notice the split fingers of the hands offering a blessing? Where do you think Mr. Spock of Star Trek learned that?
Maybe the lesson today is to seek relief from the weather by entering the homes of religious communities -- especially if you're with a member of the clergy.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.
P.S.: I'm sure by now you've read about Ted Haggard saying he's basically cured and is completely heterosexual. But I thought perhaps the Baptist Press story on this might interest you. Any reactions?