TEACHING THE BIBLE IN SCHOOLS
In Texas there's a struggle over how to teach about the Bible in public schools starting next year, this report says. I'm convinced it's possible to teach this subject without violating constitutional standards and that some basic biblical literacy is important in our culture. But it's crucial to do it right so that it doesn't turn into a stealth evangelism effort at taxpayer expense.
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RELIGIOUS NONSENSE FINDS AN AUDIENCE
A new poll offers depressing evidence of the gullibility -- or appalling know-nothing ignorance -- of some Americans in showing that 10 percent of us think Sen. Barack Obama is a Muslim. This must come as a special surprise to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Get a grip, people.
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THE ROLE OF QUASI-RELIGIOUS GROUPS
It was 126 years ago Saturday that the Knights of Columbus was founded. The first chapter of this Roman Catholic lay fraternal society was chartered in New Haven, Conn. So the K of C has spent this past year celebrating its 125th anniversary.
If the K of C history and present interest you, you can surf around on the two links I've given to find out more about this 1.7-million-member organization, which has long been a promoter of the interests of the Catholic Church.
I want to use the anniversary of the founding of this group to raise the question of what role what I might call para-religious organizations play today. Well, para-religious may not be the right term. That term -- or para-church -- often is applied to independent religious groups such as Youth for Christ.
But nearly every Christian denomination and many other religions have created various organizations that wind up being, in effect, satellite groups.
In the Jewish tradition, for instance, there's Hadassah, which calls itself the women's Zionist organization of America. Similarly, an old Presbyterian group was known as the Mariners but today is called Presbyterian Families.
What's your experience with such groups? Do they serve a useful function or are they in some way competition for the time and energy of adherents of this or that religion?
My own guess is that these organizations tend to be positive -- not negative -- adjuncts to religions but may from time to time adopt positions or get into activities that are seen to be in tension with the religions that spawned them. An example might be Opus Dei, the Catholic group that got so much bad press because of the way Dan Brown portrayed it in his novel The DaVinci Code.
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P.S.: The annual AIDS Walk in Kansas City to raise funds for local AIDS service organizations now is less than a month away. I'll be walking in it. If you'd like to help, click on the "AIDS Walk 2008" link under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page and make a pledge. Lots of needy people will be grateful to you.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My Saturday column this weekend is about marital infidelity and what religion has to say about it.)