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Religion News Report

November 20, 1999 (Vol. 3, Issue 135)

arrow Latest: Religion News Blog
Rainbow

=== Aum Shinrikyo
1. Crushing the Cult of Doom
2. Police: Firm rented property to Aum

=== Falun Gong
3. A Star Turn for China's Cult Buster
4. China: $15m supernatural test
5. China Regrets Congress's Resolution on Falun Gong
6. Falun gong crackdown spreads to homes
7. Woman Falls Victim to Banned Evil Cult in Vancouver

=== Breatharianism
8. Guilty finding for air diet pair
9. Breatharian couple convicted of killing fasting woman
10. Quest for inner peace led Lani to a cruel death

=== Scientology
11. Association status just

=== Shakty Pat Guru Foundation
12. Battle over mummified body revives cult concerns in Japan

=== Hate Groups
13. Anti-Semitic Book Seized in Hungary
14. FBI: Race Motivates Hate Crimes

=== Paganism / Witchcraft
15. 34 'Witches' Killed
16. Orkney Farmer Finds Forgotten Pagan Temple

=== Other News
17. Officials stymied in search for 2 children (Unidentied sect)
18. Explorer who found Titanic says Black Sea formed by ancient flood
19. Church approves new prayer to God the mother
20. British churches offer more than millennium hangover (Alpha Course)
21. Benny Hinn

=== Interfaith / Interdenominational
22. Jews and Baptists May Meet on Evangelism Dispute

=== Noted
23. "Come to me" incense and "catch a man" powder sold in Botanica
24. Bible Literacy: Knowledge withers away when fewer read the Good Book
25. Many people believe in the devil but don't blame him for evil in the world
26. UC-Davis prof uses statistics to test psychic claims

=== Books
27. Boomers' concept of religion still changing, `more mature,' author says


=== Aum Shinrikyo

1. Crushing the Cult of Doom
Newsweek International, Nov. 22, 1999
http://www.newsweek.com/nw-srv/printed/int/asia/a59144-1999nov15.htm
Four years after the subway gas attack, Japan prepares police and citizens
alike for war on Aum Shinrikyo. Is this overkill?
(...)

Four years after the gas attack, Japan is again at war with Aum Shinrikyo.
(...)

"It has almost gotten to the stage where anything goes as long as it's meant
to smash Aum," says attorney Mizuho Fukushima, a Social Democratic Party
lawmaker.

Why now? A minority chorus of critics say the government crackdown not only
exaggerates any lingering threat from Aum, but also threatens to undermine
Japanese civil liberties.
(...)

But the Obuchi administration insists the threat is real. According to the
government report by the Public Security Investigation Agency, Aum is now
rebuilding businesses, expanding recruitment and acquiring new facilities
across Japan.
(...)

The backlash against Aum may also reflect the fact that the cult hits so
close to home. Many kids who join Aum are dropouts from Japan's high-pressure
world of exams and forced conformity. Indeed, hundreds of other new-wave
religions also seduce Japan's stressed-out, emotionally vulnerable youth.

Fearful that passage of the new anti-cult law is imminent, Aum, NEWSWEEK has
learned, is going underground.
(...)

Aum's new aims are murky. Consider Perfect Nirvana' s concert video, which
screens like outtakes from a high-school talent show but hints at something
darker. The vocalists dance alluringly in flowing Indian saris, hinting at
what criminologist Robert Lifton has called an "erotic promise of individual
solace" Aum uses for "recruiting young men." The video begins with Tokyo
street scenes -- including a brief shot of the Shinjuku Station that Aum tried
to gas with cyanide shortly before the sarin attack. Superimposed over this
image is bold text: we hope all souls will enter perfect nirvana.
(...)

"We see Aum as a terrorist group," says legislator Toshiko Hamayotsu. What
worries authorities most is the imminent release of Aum's charismatic former
"minister of foreign affairs," Fumihiro Joyu. He is expected to assume
leadership of Aum when his three-year prison term for fraud and perjury ends
next month. Joyu "is Asahara' s greatest disciple," says Nobutaka Inoue,
professor of religion at Kokugakuin University in Tokyo. "He will speak
directly to followers and interpret the real meaning of Asahara' s
situation."
(...)

Another Aum member says cult leaders plan to take refuge in "family churches"
if they can't work openly. Indeed the danger, cult experts say, is that the
crackdown could strengthen Aum by reinforcing its persecution
complex -- particularly if Asahara is ultimately executed.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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2. Police: Firm rented property to Aum
Daily Yomiuri (Japan), Nov. 20, 1999
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/newse/1120cr11.htm
A real estate company in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, whose former president was
arrested Wednesday on suspicion of obstructing public auctions, had served as
a mediator for Aum Supreme Truth cult members to find accommodation, the
Metropolitan Police Department said Friday

The company, Higashiyama Shoji, reportedly had properties that had been
slated for public auction occupied by its brokers and submitted false rental
contract documents to court officials.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Falun Gong

3. A Star Turn for China's Cult Buster
New York Times, Nov. 20, 1999
http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/asia/112099china-sect.html
The animosity between Sima Nan and the Falun Gong spiritual movement goes
back a few years, ever since Sima, China's one-man cult-bashing machine,
denounced the group as a fraud in 1995, and the group's leader predicted that
Sima would go blind and be crippled, Sima says.
(...)

He has been beaten by members of sects he has denounced and shunned by the
government as a flamboyant upstart willing to "out" officials who believe in
the supernatural, like the vice minister who for good luck invites a master
of qi gong -- slow-motion exercises said to harness unseen forces -- to
important events.

But these days, Sima's longstanding feud with Falun Gong has transformed him
into an establishment darling, featured in newspapers and sent to state
companies all over the country to lecture.
(...)

"In 1995, I said Falun Gong was a cult and everyone said I was crazy," he
said. "Now that President Jiang Zemin says it, people agree with me."

Still, Sima is careful to maintain some distance from the government,
refusing its payments for his lectures.
(...)

Sima says he supports the government's ban on Falun Gong, which he thinks is
duping China's masses. But he remains ambivalent about the government's
campaign against the group, with vitriolic propaganda and hundreds of
arrests.

"I don't think they should let these people sit in Tiananmen Square, but I
also think it's really bad that the government is treating this like a
political movement," he said. "To have people criticizing each other for
practicing and old ladies in tears confessing on TV -- you don't have to
humiliate people like that."
(...)

In fact, he said, the state media's daily broadcasts and articles on the
group "have been free advertising for Li Hongzhi," the founder and leader of
the Falun Gong, who lives in New York.
(...)

Until this summer Falun Gong was just one of his many targets. Sima said it is by no means the
most popular of China's qi gong sects. He listed several others -- Zhong Gong, Yuan Ji
Gong and Wang Gong -- which he said are bigger. [...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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4. China: HK$15m supernatural test
Yahoo! Asia, Nov. 20, 1999
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/newspapers/scmp/article.html
?s=asia/headlines/991120/newspapers/scmp/CHINA___15m_supernatural_test.html
A reward worth more than US$2 million (HK$15.5 million) is being offered to
anyone who can prove, under strict scientific conditions, that they have
supernatural powers.

Sima Nan, a dedicated exposer of tricksters on the mainland, is challenging
any so-called holder of supernatural powers worldwide to prove their powers
scientifically.

He is offering a 10 million yuan (HK$9.3 million) reward which is being
enhanced by US magician James Randi, who is joining Sima's cause by offering
US$1.1 million of his own money to the person who wins Sima's ultimate
challenge.
(...)

Mr Sima personally dared Li Hongzhi, the leader of the banned Falun Gong
movement to take the test.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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5. China Regrets Congress's Resolution on Falun Gong
AOL/Reuters, Nov. 19, 1999
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?table=n&cat=01&id=1999111901537080
China said on Friday that it deeply regretted a U.S. congressional resolution
on the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement and added that U.S. government
criticism of a crackdown on the group could damage relations.

A human rights dialogue between China and the United States, suspended after
the United States bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in May, will not
resume until the United States stops interfering in Chinese affairs, added
the spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington.
(...)

The resolution said: ``The Government of the People's Republic of China
should stop persecuting Falun Gong practitioners and other religious
believers.'' It also said the U.S. government should urge the Chinese
government to release all Falun Gong practitioners and allow them to pursue
their religious beliefs.
(...)

Yu said: ``To our deep regret, some American lawmakers, by attacking the
Chinese Government's handling of the Falun Gong case, have chosen to
associate themselves with, and indeed to act as apologists for a deadly and
infamous cult.''
(...)

Yu said the Beijing had told the United States government not to interfere in
what it considers an internal affair. ``We do not see this as a human rights
issue. This is a criminal cult which shall be dealt with in accordance with
the law so that they will not continue inflicting great harm on the people,''
he added.

Asked if the human rights dialogue would resume, as the United States has
requested, he said: ``We say that conditions should be created for the
resumption of this -- for instance, an end to interference in China's
internal affairs under the pretext of human rights violations.''
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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6. Falun gong crackdown spreads to homes
Yahoo! Asia/AFP, Nov. 19, 1999
http://asia.dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/asia/afp/article.html
?s=asia/headlines/991119/asia/afp/Falungong_crackdown_spreads_to_homes.html
Eight followers of the mystical Falungong sect have been sentenced to forced
labour in China for practising the banned group's meditation exercises at
home, a human rights group said Friday.

The cases indicated Chinese authorities were stepping up pressure on the
sect, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic
Movement in China said.
(...)

The information centre said the eight people were not leaders, but merely
members of the sect.
(...)

The government has said it would be lenient on mere members, urging them to
give up their beliefs and leave the sect.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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7. Woman Falls Victim to Banned Evil Cult in Vancouver
Northren Light/Xinhua News Agency, Nov. 19, 1999
http://library.northernlight.com/FA19991119320000102.html?cb=0&dx=1006&sc=0#doc
Falun Gong, the evil cult banned in China, has claimed its first victim in
Canada's Pacific city of Vancouver. Ms. Chen Xiaolin, 29, has been
hospitalized for schizophrenia as a result of practicing Falun Gong, her
mother told local television this week.

Xiaolin is now recovering after weeks of intensive care at a local
psychiatric hospital. Before her hospitalization, she had refused to see any
doctors or take any medicine, believing that cult leader Li Hongzhi would
save her life, her mother said.

She refused nearly every request, even to the point of caring for her
new-born child. The only thing she wanted to do was to read Li Hongzhi's book
"Falun Dafa," according to Xiaolin's mother.
(...)

The mother was enraged with continual harassment from Falun Gong, even after
her daughter was seriously harmed by practicing it. Without the rescue
efforts by the local hospital, you cannot imagine what might have become of
Xiaolin, the mother said.

She categorically denied that her daughter had been insane or had had some
other serious mental problems before practicing Falun Gong. According to
Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi, if anything goes wrong with a practitioner, it
is because he or she must have been insane or have had a serious illness
before beginning to practicing it.

Chen Xiaolin's suffering has aroused wide-spread concern in Vancouver, where
many people have contacted her family expressing sympathy and outrage at the
evil cult.
(...)

The government has warned that Falun Gong bears strong resemblance to
heterodox groups like Branch Davidian in the United States and Japanese Aum
Doomsday cult, which also injured and killed innocent people.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Xinhua is a state-controlled press-agency.


=== Breatharianism

8. Guilty finding for air diet pair
The Courier Mail (Australia), Nov. 20, 1999
http://news.com.au/news_content/state_content/4395756.htm
A COUPLE who believe it is possible to live on air alone were found guilty of
killing a fellow believer yesterday. A Supreme Court jury in Brisbane took
three hours to find Jim Vadim Pesnak, 61, and his wife Eugenia, 63,
responsible for the manslaughter of Lani Marsha Rosalind Morris.

Morris, 53, was taking part in a 21-day fasting process at the Pesnaks'
Ormiston home, in a bayside suburb east of Brisbane in July last year, as an
introduction to Breatharianism.
(...)

She died in the Mater Hospital seven days later after suffering a major
stroke, renal failure, severe dehydration, pneumonia and the onset of
gangrene in her legs.

The court was told she had been vomiting a "black, sticky substance" and was
unable to breath normally.
(...)

Prosecutor Charlie Clark said he had found no other similar cases to that of
the Pesnaks. "There was something quite frightening about the way Jim Pesnak
described to police how she degenerated without him doing anything at all,"
he said. "It's a question of how gross the negligence is and how culpable
they are."
(...)

Mr McGroarty conceded any sentence would have to deter people from behaving
in a similar way in the name of religion.
(...)

Videotapes played to the court during the trial showed Jim Pesnak telling
police, before he had been charged, that doctors could not have helped
Morris. "This is a spiritual procedure not a medical procedure," he said.
"When the question comes up 'should I call a doctor?' the answer is 'no,
trust in God'."

The court also was told Jim Pesnak had called a doctor who had been a former
Breatharian after Morris's symptoms began to worsen.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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9. Breatharian couple convicted of killing fasting woman
The Sunday Mail/AAP (Australia), Nov. 21, 1999
http://www.news.com.au/news_content/state_content/4295360.htm
(...) The Pesnaks are followers of the breatharian philosophy and believe
humans do not need food to survive and can live on air alone.

Ms Morris travelled from her Melbourne home to undertake a 21-day initiation
process into breatharianism which involved seven days without any nourishment
at all including water, and then a further 14 days on limited liquids.

After a week, Ms Morris appeared to be paralysed down one side, could not
talk, was vomiting a black tar-like substance and eventually was so ill she
had trouble breathing.
(...)

The Pesnaks gave interviews to police in which they said they believed Ms
Morris was undergoing a spiritual blockage, and was not in danger physically.
(...)

Prosecutor Charlie Clark has indicated there is no case like this one
anywhere in Australia, with the closest comparison being an exorcism which
went wrong in Victoria.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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10. Quest for inner peace led Lani to a cruel death
The Australian, Nov. 20, 1999
http://news.com.au/news_content/national_content/4395812.htm
No one will ever know the suffering Lani Morris must have endured as she lay
alone in a caravan, paralysed down her right side, delirious and coughing
black liquid. Certainly not Jim or Eugenia Pesnak.

They were convinced Morris, 53, was suffering a spiritual crisis, not a
medical one, after going seven days without food or water as part of a 21-day
initiation into the new-age cult of breatharianism.
(...)

Like the Pesnaks, Morris was a deeply spiritual woman. After reading the book
Living on Light by Brisbane breatharian-guru Jasmuheen, Morris became
convinced the initiation process was for her.
(...)

The Pesnaks had supervised about 30 people through the process, although
Eugenia Pesnak had protested initially, fearing an accident. But her husband
would have his way. They put Morris in a caravan in the yard -- isolation was
essential -- and left her alone.

According to the rules set out in a statutory declaration Jim Pesnak had sent
to Morris's home in Victoria a month before, she was allowed orange juice
after seven days and nothing else for the next two weeks. It also purported
to free the Pesnaks of any liability if anything went wrong.
(...)

Jim Pesnak began consulting a doctor, William Moulton, who had been through
the process. Dr Moulton later denied he had been giving Jim Pesnak medical
advice but Pesnak satisfied himself Morris had not had a stroke and the black
liquid she was vomiting was a mixture of all the spiritual and physical
pollutants the process was designed to evacuate.

As Jim Pesnak's interviews with police demonstrated, he was convinced Morris
had a spiritual blockage, created by her "childish" refusal to let go of her
"emotional burdens".

The Pesnaks claimed later traditional medicine would not have understood what
was going on and drugs would have stopped her spiritual journey. "As far as
the process is concerned sometimes a doctor's intervention can be fatal,"
Eugenia Pesnak said without a hint of irony.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Scientology

11. Association status just
Stuttgarter Nachrichten (Germany), Nov. 19, 1999
Translation: CISAR
http://cisar.org/991119a.htm
The Scientology Organization has attained a victory in the dispute with the
Stuttgart administrative presidium. According to a decision which has just
been released by the administrative court of Stuttgart, the sect branch of
Dianetics Stuttgart may retain its association status. The administrative
presidium had revoked the status of an association with legal rights from the
group in August 1994.

Administration President Udo Andriof regretted the judgment. "As far as we're
concerned, this organization and all its sub-branches are still dangerous,"
he said. The agency will not decide whether it will appeal the decision until
it sees the basis for the decision in writing.

From the viewpoint of the administrative presidium, the Dianetics group is
running a commercial business under the protective cover of a registered
association. Therefore association privileges must be taken away because
Dianetics Stuttgart realizes economic advantages in its so-called auditing
and training for auditors. A spokesman from the administrative presidium
estimated the yearly income for Dianetics Stuttgart alone to be from 2.5 to
three million marks.

In June a Scientology branch lost a similar legal dispute in the Munich
Administrative Court. At that time the judges had decided that the Munich
county administration had legally withdrawn the "e.V." [registered
association status] from the organization because it was operating
commercially (Az.: M 7 K 96.5439). lsw
[...entire item...]


=== Shakty Pat Guru Foundation / Life Space

12. Battle over mummified body revives cult concerns in Japan
Nando Times, Nov. 19, 1999
http://www.nando.net/noframes/story/0,2107,500059181-500097611-500391977-0,00.html
When police entered the hotel room, they found a dead man's wife and son
keeping vigil over the man's partially mummified body on the bed. But when
authorities tried to remove the body, the wife and son protested - saying he
was still alive.

What ensued was a bizarre custody battle for a corpse that has pitted police
against a fringe religious group. It also has deepened fears that, just five
years after the nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subways, Japanese cults may once
again be on the rise.
(...)

The family at the hotel near Tokyo's airport belonged to a hitherto unknown
religious cult called Life Space. The cult is led by a scraggly-haired,
silver-bearded former tax accountant claiming supernatural powers.
(...)

"Until he was taken by the police, we believe he was alive," Kenji Kobayashi,
the man's son, said after the body was cremated today. "We, his family, all
believe that."

To prove he was gradually recovering, cult members took photos of the corpse
each day. The changes they claimed were indications of life - the corpse's
darkening color, for example - were merely signs of decomposition, police
say.

Police do not suspect foul play in Kobayashi's death, however, and no charges
have been filed.

Japan in recent years has seen a swell in the number of new religious groups
and occult movements. Experts are divided over the reasons, but many
believe the postwar stress on material wealth has left people feeling a need
for spiritual fulfillment that mainstream, conservative religions - mostly
Shinto and Buddhism - have failed to satisfy.

Life Space would seem to be a good example of the kind of New Age fringe
groups that are growing in popularity.

At a news conference Thursday, Life Space leader Koji Takahashi, 62,
described himself as a superhuman being who does not need to eat, wash or
sleep. His teachings blend elements of Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism
with claims of telepathic powers and supernatural healing skills. "I am a
guru," he said. "I need not bathe because I cannot get dirty."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Hate Groups

13. Anti-Semitic Book Seized in Hungary
Northern Light/AP, Nov. 19, 1999
http://library.northernlight.com/EB19991119280000043.html?cb=0&dx=1006&sc=0#doc
Police raided bookstores in three Hungarian towns, confiscating copies of a
banned anti-Semitic work written a hundred years ago, state-run radio
reported Friday.
(...)

The ``Protocols of the Elders of Zion'' describes a Jewish plot to attain
global domination. The fictitious account was concocted by Russia's czarist
secret police.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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14. FBI: Race Motivates Hate Crimes
AOL/AP, Nov. 18, 1999
http://my.aol.com/news/story.tmpl?table=n&cat=01&id=1999111803264739
Racial prejudice motivated more than half the 7,755 hate crimes committed in
1998 that were reported to the FBI, the bureau said Thursday. As in 1997 and
1996, racial prejudice was the most common motivation for hate crimes,
accounting for 4,321 incidents in 1998.

In order of magnitude, there were 1,390 incidents attributed to prejudice
over religion, 1,260 over sexual orientation, 754 over ethnic or national
origin, 25 over disabilities and five over multiple prejudices, the FBI said.

The 1998 data come from 10,730 law enforcement agencies in 46 states and the
District of Columbia, representing 80 percent of the nation's population.
(...)

Because the number of agencies reporting varies under the voluntary system
established by the Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990, officials caution
against drawing conclusions about trends in hate crime volumes between years.
They say the figures provide a rough picture of the general nature of hate
crimes.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Paganism / Witchcraft

15. 34 'Witches' Killed
News Wire (England), Nov. 20, 1999
http://www.lineone.net/newswire/cgi-bin/newswire.cgi/new_wire/
pa_world/story/1999/11/c--1999-11-20-1n12.html
At least 34 people, mostly elderly women, have been killed in western
Tanzania as suspected witches this year, according to local authorities.
Tabora Provincial Commissioner Stephen Mashishanga said most of the victims
were elderly women whose eyes turn red from years of standing over cow dung
cooking fires. Although villagers often accuse the red-eyed women of being
witches, investigators and sociologists say this is often used as an excuse
by family members to get rid of the women to seize their property or
belongings. Mashishanga said the killings were a result of villagers'
continuing belief in witchcraft.
(...)

Police have also linked the killings to the cross-border trade in human skin
with neighbouring Zambia where some people believe that human skin protects a
home from demons and spirits.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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16. Orkney Farmer Finds Forgotten Pagan Temple
Fox News/The Times, Nov. 19, 1999
http://www.foxnews.com/js_index.sml?content=/scitech/111999/times_temple.sml
(...) With a rope round his waist and hanging headfirst down a 2 feet-wide,
30 fee.-deep muddy hole, Mr. Paterson excavated two ancient stone staircases
of 29 steps leading down through three subterranean chambers. Initial reports
said, incorrectly, that there were 39 steps.
(...)

On an island already rich in prehistoric monuments, the most famous being the
coastal Stone Age village of Skara Brae, his find has emerged as unique in
Europe and could be of huge importance in understanding the pagan ceremonies
of early human beings.

After preliminary excavations, archaeologists are convinced that the
structure, which is the deepest of its kind ever found and features intricate
stonework throughout, is probably a sacred ritual "temple" used by the Celts
in pagan worship.
(...)

The Celts worshipped the elements, and nature gods and water cults were
widespread. If the structure is Iron Age, the chambers may have been used in
pagan rituals. The discovery of an animal skull in an alcove in the second
chamber further supports the idea. The Celts revered the head as the home of
the spirit.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Other News

17. Officials stymied in search for 2 children
Boston Globe, Nov. 19, 1999
http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/323/metro/Officials_stymied
_in_search_for_2_children+.shtml
The search for two missing boys and the investigation into the isolated
religious sect
that may be responsible for their disappearance opened up
yesterday as the Bristol district attorney sought the public's help in the
complicated case.

With little forensic evidence coming to light after 10 days of investigation
- including the excavation of three sites in two states - District Attorney
Paul F. Walsh Jr. said his office remains uncertain where the bodies of the
two boys, who are presumed dead, may be buried.

A source close to the investigation said that one of the boys may have died
after being ''more or less starved to death after being fed the wrong foods''
because of the sect's fundamental religious beliefs.
(...)

With that, 13 children from the group's home on Knight Avenue in Attleboro
were taken into protective custody by the Department of Social Services.
(...)

The district attorney also issued a poster with pictures of the four men
believed to have buried the bodies. The men have not been charged with any
crime, but Walsh identified them as David Corneau, 32, Mark Daneau, 25,
Timothy Daneau, 22, and Jacques Robidoux, 26, all members of the religious
sect that has property in Seekonk and Attleboro.
(...)

A search warrant application also revealed that Corneau told investigators
that his child, Jeremiah, was stillborn in August and ''never had a breath of
life, the Lord never gave it to him.'' In the application, Corneau told
investigators that Jesus told him to bury his son, but Corneau refused to
reveal the site of the burial.

Corneau said in the affidavit for the search warrant that the sect does not
believe in the medical system and that a midwife was not present during
Jeremiah's birth.
(...)

Investigators and neighbors have described the residents of the Attleboro
duplex where members of the sect live as religious fundamentalists who do not
believe in conventional doctors and medical care.
(...)

All the men are said to be bearded and dressed conservatively while the women
dress in long dresses and wear their hair long. No one wears eyeglasses, the
press release said.
(...)

Marc Gerstenfeld, an attorney who represents members of the sect but who
refuses to name them specifically, said the investigation can go nowhere
without proof that the boys are dead.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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18. Explorer who found Titanic says Black Sea formed by ancient flood
CNN, Nov. 19, 1999
http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/meast/9911/19/us.noah.flood.ap/
[Keyword: science]
The man who tracked down the Titanic and other undersea mysteries has found
evidence that the Black Sea was inundated in a giant flood about 7,000 years
ago -- perhaps the biblical flood of Noah.

Explorer Robert Ballard reported this week that he was looking for ancient
shipwrecks off the north coast of Turkey last summer and decided to check out
the flood theory.
(...)

Ballard used side-scan sonar, similar to that used to locate the undersea
wreck of John Kennedy Jr.'s plane, to study the floor of the Black Sea. He
found, well out to sea, an ancient coastline and a change from freshwater to
saltwater mollusks dating from about 7,000 years ago.

But considering the flow of water through the narrow channel now known as the
Bosporus, Ballard told the National Geographic Society: "The flood wasn't
over in 40 days. ... The whole event probably lasted about 40 years."
(...)

Ballard plans to return to the Black Sea next August to search for ancient
merchant vessels and more clues about the ancient flood.
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19. Church approves new prayer to God the mother
The Times (England), Nov. 19, 1999
http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/tim/99/11/19/timnwsnws01009.html?999
God will be described as a mother in a prayer overwhelming approved by the
Church of England General Synod yesterday, as bishops vehemently denied that
they were victims of modern feminist fashions.

Supporters of the prayer claimed that God had been described in feminine
language from the times of the Old Testament Prophets, in the time of Jesus
in the New Testament, and during the Middle Ages.

The prayer will be included in a new book, Common Worship, which will be the
first collection of Anglican literature to be put on the Internet and sold as
software disks.

Instead of prayer books, worshippers of the future will be able to download
the text onto laptops and palm-held computers, and scroll their way through
the service.
(...)

The words are included in one of eight new prayers for the Eucharist that are
said at the most sacred part of the Church service. The prayer reads: "As a
mother tenderly gathers her children, you embraced a people as your own."
(...)

The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Right Rev Kenneth Stevenson, said: "This
allusion to motherhood in the Godhead is not a creation of strident late
20th-century feminism."

He pointed to Isaiah 49:15Off-site Link: "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she
should not have compassion on the son of her womb?" In the New Testament, at
Matthew 23:37Off-site Link, Jesus compared Himself to a mother: "How often would I have
gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under
her wings."

The medieval female hermit and mystic, Julian of Norwich, had used feminine
imagery to describe God, Bishop Stevenson added.
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20. British churches offer more than millennium hangover
Charisma Daily News, Nov. 19, 1999
http://www.charismanews.com/worldnews/worldnews.cgi?a=183&t=news.html
Churches in Britain have joined forces to challenge people to mark the
millennium celebrations with more than a hangover. They are distributing
party packs that contain everything needed for a New Year's bash--plus an
invitation to find out more about Jesus.

The "millennium survival kits"--containing party hat, balloon, party popper,
a sachet of Alka-Seltzer and a corkscrew--also include details about the
Alpha course fea [sic], the 10-week introductory course about Christianity used
successfully by thousands of churches in the past few years.
(...)

Alpha began more than 20 years ago at Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), a
charismatic Anglican church in London. In 1993 church leaders saw its
potential as an evangelistic tool, and since then its use has spread across
all denominations. Seven thousand courses are currently offered, with 750,000
people having attended one in the last five years.
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21. Benny Hinn
KDFW / Fox 4 Investigates [Nov. 1999]
http://www.kdfwfox4.com/dynamic/story.asp?category=114#benny
(...) Benny Hinn is a rising star among television evangelists, and he's
looking to make a big splash in Dallas-Fort Worth. In fact, he's promised to
build a $30 million spiritual theme park in Las Colinas. But is he for real?

He takes his ministry across the country and around the world, and thousands
upon thousands flock to see him. But he's also attracting a growing army of
critics, who challenge his somewhat unorthodox theology, his lavish
lifestyle, and his claims of miraculous healings.

One of those claims centers around a 1976 hospital visit to Sault Ste. Marie,
in which the Pastor says his preaching triggered a mass healing of many
patients.

G. Richard Fisher is a Baptist minister and a co-author of the book, "The
Confusing World of Benny Hinn"
Off-site Link. Pastor Fisher says they called the hospital
in Sault Ste. Marie, but the hospital says while he held a service in the
chapel, it was uneventful. No patients left that day, says the hospital.

Ole Anthony was once a supporter of Pastor Hinn, but now he's one of his
critics. Anthony says that Hinn promised to wait 6 months before proclaiming
successful healings, 6 months being long enough to verify healings with
doctors. But Anthony says the pastor never followed through. Anthony says of
Hinn: "His brother told me, 'If I did what Ole wanted, I wouldn't have any
healings to air.' That's the point! Story airing phony healings!"

Anthony today is president of the Dallas-based Trinity Foundation, a watchdog
group that once spearheaded efforts to expose former Dallas-based
televangelist Robert Tilton. Now the foundation is focusing its efforts on
Benny Hinn.

Claims and counterclaims aside, Hinn has legal troubles too. Most recently a
court battle has been waged between Hinn's ministry and its former director
of security, a man Hinn's own lawyers, in court documents, asserted could
destroy the ministry with what he knows. Both sides have sued each other.
Hinn's attorneys have concluded, again in court documents, that the adverse
publicity alone would likely cause the ministry to lose as much as 90 percent
of its support."
(...)

Pastor Benny Hinn has a website. [http://www.bhmm.org/Off-site Link]

The Trinity Foundation watchdog group has a website, too.
[http://www.trinityfi.org/Off-site Link] You can also click
to The Door magazine, [http://www.thedoormagazine.com/Off-site Link] which is published
by the Foundation.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Interfaith / Interdenominational

22. Jews and Baptists May Meet on Evangelism Dispute
New York Times, Nov. 20, 1999
http://www.nytimes.com/99/11/20/news/national/religion-column.html
Ever since late September, just after the Jewish High Holy Days, a rather
pointed exchange of letters has flowed between officials of the Jewish
Community Relations Council of New York and the Rev. Paige Patterson,
president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant
denomination.

The subject has been the Southern Baptists' support for "messianic Jewish" or
"Hebrew Christian" groups, which assert that one can be both Jewish and a
believer in Jesus as the Messiah, and which often use Jewish ritual objects,
like skullcaps and prayer shawls, in their services.

The council, an umbrella body that includes about 60 Jewish organizations,
has made it clear that it opposes the use of those objects by those groups
and, in its letters to Patterson, has said the Southern Baptist Convention,
through its interest in these groups, embraced a "deceptive" approach to
trying to convert Jews to Christianity. In his replies, Patterson flatly
rejected the charge that the denomination would countenance any sort of
deception in its evangelism.

Now, there is a possibility that the debate may lead to a face-to-face
discussion between the two sides, a sort of summit meeting on this
contentious issue.

The idea came from Patterson. He wrote the council last week, inviting its
top two officers -- Gedale B. Horowitz, its president, and Michael S. Miller,
its executive vice president -- along with the presidents of four major
Jewish seminaries, to join him and two representatives of messianic groups
for a day's discussion at a location agreeable to both sides.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Noted

23. "Come to me" incense and "catch a man" powerde sold in Botanica
Northern Light/Agencia EFE
http://library.northernlight.com/FC19991119590000014.html?cb=0&dx=1006&sc=0#doc
In New Orleans' F&F Botanica store, devotees of the spiritual world
encompassing African, Caribbean, Iberian and American lore find more than
6,000 products to whet or calm their faith, their worries, their loves and
fortunes.

"The products are effective, but if there is no faith or dedication, they
don't work," said store manager Sandra Valdes. According to Valdes, her
clientele, the majority of which are Hispanic, is as varied as the store's
inventory.
(...)

It is a faith dependent on the symbolism of herbs, stones, lucky charms,
oils, candles, figurines and religious cards that foster hope for answers to
the prayers of those who believe, she said.

Valdes maintains that her customers do not buy into "pure fetishism," nor are
the products they buy meant for voodoo or witchcraft rituals. However,
spiritual forces can be shortsighted, she noted, and often need to be
summoned with candles of all colors and sizes that illuminate the believer's
uncertainty.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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24. Bible Literacy: Knowledge withers away when fewer read the Good Book
Star-Telegram, Nov. 18, 1999
http://www.star-telegram.com/news/doc/1047/1:RELIGION51/1:RELIGION51111899.html
Thirteen-year-old Anne Dostart of Lexington, Ky. liked "The Prince of Egypt"
-- except for the mistakes. She noticed that the animated film about the life
of Moses omitted some biblical facts and fudged others.
(...)

If you have no idea what Anne is talking about, you're not alone. If you
thought Charlton Heston did a more accurate portrayal in "The Ten
Commandments," you're not the only one. And if your knowledge of Noah's Ark
comes from the recent NBC television miniseries, join the club.

National studies show a decline in biblical literacy -- a fact that affects
both American Christianity and the understanding of American culture.

In polls for his book, "The Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators," George
Barna noted that 90 percent of Americans own a Bible. But only 34 percent
said they read the Bible during the past week in 1996, compared with 50
percent in 1992.

Eighty percent wrongly said that the Bible contains the saying, "God helps
those who help themselves." Nearly 65 percent did not know the message of
John 3:16. And 10 percent thought Joan of Arc was Noah's wife.

You might expect that from people who don't go to church. But a believer
would know the Good Book like the back of his hand. Right? Wrong.
(...)

If people know less about the Bible than they once did, what difference does
it make? The Bible provides the bedrock for Christian belief, so a Christian
without Bible knowledge is like a carpenter without a level.

For Christians, "We have no reliable information about God -- other than what
we can glean through nature -- other than the Bible," Akin said. "We can't
know anything about Jesus apart from the Bible. Christianity is a word-based
faith."
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Story includes a Bible quiz (with answers :), and a list of link to
Bible-related websites.

Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0849936039/christianministrOff-site Link


25. Many people believe in the devil but don't blame him for evil in the world
Star-Telegram, Nov. 18, 1999
http://www.star-telegram.com/news/doc/1047/1:RELIGION53/1:RELIGION53111899.html
(...) From the murder of a 10-year-old girl in Kansas City, Kan., to acts of
ethnic cleansing in Rwanda and Kosovo, people looking for explanations of
horrific events often blame them on the presence of an evil force in the
world.

Yet, some polls show that the number of people who believe in the existence
of the devil is declining. The most recent Gallup Poll in 1996 found that 56
percent of people surveyed said they believe in the existence of the devil,
down from 65 percent in 1994.

Still, books, movies and other literature about the devil are becoming
increasingly popular as people seek to know more about the prince of darkness
in light of the approaching millennium.
(...)

Today, while many people believe in the devil, they don't always blame a
supernatural force for every evil act. Many view Satan's power as secondary
to a person's ability to make right or wrong choices.

Nonetheless, such beliefs haven't diminished interest in the millennium and
end-of-the-world scenarios that often include the devil.

Take, for example, the success of the "Left Behind" book series, which has
sold more than 2 million copies. The books, written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry
Jenkins, recast events from the biblical Book of Revelation, written in the
last decade of the first century, and put them in today's world. The stories
lead up to the final battle between supernatural forces of good and evil.

Or consider "The Omega Code," a Christian movie that also revisits the plot
of the Book of Revelation. It surprised movie industry experts with a strong
opening weekend showing two weeks ago.
(...)

The Rev. Richard Boever, professor of theology at Newman University in
Wichita, Kan., said another factor that makes it difficult to get a complete
picture of the devil is the number of different traditions about Satan found
in the Bible.
(...)

But Timothy George, dean of the Beeson School of Divinity at Samford
University in Birmingham, Ala., said he sees a return to traditional
Christian understandings of the devil -- a personal agent of evil.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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26. UC-Davis prof uses statistics to test psychic claims
Excite/U-wire, Nov. 17, 1999
http://news.excite.com/news/uw/991117/odd-115
If you ever thought you could visualize a distant place or could
telecommunicate with others, you may not be as crazy as you thought.

Jessica Utts, a UC-Davis statistics professor, has raised many eyebrows with
claims like this one, which she has defended on major network shows like
CNN's "Morning News" and "Larry King Live," ABC's "20/20" and "Nightline."
She said she believes that through the use of scientific analysis and
statistics, she has found conclusive evidence for parapsychological activity.

"Using the standards applied to any other area of science, it is concluded
that psychic functioning has been well established," she wrote in her 1995
essay, "An Assessment of the Evidence for Psychic Functioning."

Utts' undergraduate work in math and psychology formed the foundation for her
statistical research.
(...)

Utt's insistence on scientific evidence to prove the existence of psychic
phenomena - an area which is an issue of faith for many people - makes her a
unique figure in the field of American academics. She is one of only a
handful of scholars studying parapsychology in the United States today.
(...)

SRI International, at the request of Congress and the Central Intelligence
Agency, worked with the Science Applications International Corporation on a
30-year study to assess the validity of psychic functioning and its potential
applications. Utts was on the panel which presented the study's findings. She
concluded that the study's statistical data supported the existence of
psychic phenomena.
(...)

Another area where there is an interest in harnessing psychic ability is
medicine. According to Utts, studies have suggested that psychic "distance
healing" or "prayer healing" can have a positive impact on a patient's
health.
(...)

Psychics are important in other areas of society, including in police
departments, where they are sometimes used to help solve crimes.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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=== Books

27. Boomers' concept of religion still changing, `more mature,' author says
Star-Telegram/AP, Nov. 19, 1999
http://www.star-telegram.com/news/doc/1047/1:RELIGION61/1:RELIGION61111999.html
When Wade Clark Roof published his influential book on baby boomers and
religion six years ago, he found that the post-World War II generation was
not just looking to change the way it worships, but was changing the way
worship looks.

In 1993's "A Generation of Seekers," the University of California-Santa
Barbara religion professor explored how boomers built their own beliefs in a
higher power, mounting journeys through a variety of faiths, cults and New
Age practices to find what some called a custom-made God.
(...)

Returning to the subject in a new book, "Spiritual Marketplace," Roof finds
boomers are now surer about their beliefs. "They have a more mature
religion," the 60-year-old Roof said in an interview. "They have a better
sense of what they believe in and experience stronger commitments than they
did before."
(...)

For his new book, Roof went back to reinterview some of those he talked to
before. "They are a more settled generation now," Roof said, and their
beliefs are more pluralistic.

The boomers' religious landscape, according to Roof, no longer traces its
borders along denominational lines of Jew, Protestant, Catholic. Instead, the
lines run along categories that describe how belief affects people's lives:
dogmatists, born-again Christians, mainstream believers, metaphysical
believers and seekers, and secularists.

For example, dogmatists are reacting to what they perceive as the moral
relativism of modern life, trying to get back to a time when right and wrong
were less subjective. Metaphysical
believers follow in a tradition set in the
19th century, when the turmoil of a changing economy prompted people to join
Transcendentalist and Revivalist movements.

Roof found that as many boomers age, they are going back to churches they
once left. But that does not mean they are renouncing beliefs they picked up
along the way.
(...)

Even if a person is a Christian, he or she finds much to be learned from,
say, Buddhism, Roof said. "You get these constellations that are somewhat
diverse in terms of religious practices," Roof said.

Still, he said, they express more certainty in their beliefs. Having returned
to church or synagogue, they have stayed, tailoring the religion's traditions
to their needs.
[...more...]   [Need the full story? Read this]
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* Spiritual Marketplace : Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0691016593/christianministrOff-site Link