‘Born again Christians’ like Dems best

“Born again” voters favor Clinton and Obama over all the Republicans.

That’s the word from the Barna Group, an evangelical polling operation.

According to Barna:

If the election were held today, and all of the remaining candidates from both parties were on the ballot, the frontrunners among born again voters would be Hillary Clinton (favored by 20% of born again likely voters), Barack Obama (18%) and Mike Huckabee (12%). No other candidate reached double figures. Thirty percent of the born again likely voters said they were still undecided as to who they would choose.

Last time around, “born again” voters preferred Bush to Kerry by a 62% to 38% margin.

Barna defines “born again Christians” as “people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.”

barna_204.jpgGeorge Barna, the firm’s boss (that’s him), said:

Given the large percentage of undecided voters, it is possible that the Republican candidate might eventually win a majority of the born again vote. However, it will not be easy to win them over. Several factors are operating against the Republican’s prospects in this election, related to both social issues and the personal integrity of several of the candidates.

Pope editing Good Friday prayer?

Back in July, when Pope Benedict loosened restrictions on the use of the Latin Mass, a side issue emerged:

Jewish groups expressed unease with a Good Friday prayer included in the 1962 Roman Missal (the old prayerbook that includes the Latin Mass). The prayer in question urges the “conversion” of the Jews.

Now it’s being reported that Benedict plans to revise that prayer before Holy Week arrives in March.

An Italian newspaper first reported that a new version of the prayer will be released soon.

rabbi-rosen-pope-benedict-june-05-ijcic-3rd-pic.jpgAnd Rabbi David Rosen, who chairs an international Jewish group (that’s him with Benedict), says that his sources in the Vatican “indicate that the new text composed by Pope Benedict does not call for the Jew to accept the Christian faith but is in keeping with the 1970 prayer commonly used by the Church in the vernacular that prays for the physical and spiritual well being of the Jews.”

Important note: There has been no official word from the Vatican.

A new LDS prophet

And the new president/prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Thomas S. Monson.

The LDS church announced this morning that the 80-year-old Monson replaces globe-trotting President Gordon B. Hinckley, who died January 27.

med_monson_large.jpgMonson served as First Counselor to Hinckley since 1995, setting him up as the likely successor.

He was born in Salt Lake City. At the age of 36, he was ordained an apostle and named to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, whose members are believed to be (as the name suggests) modern-day apostles.

Monson, who made his career in publishing and printing, has served as a member of the National Executive Board of Boy Scouts of America since way back in 1969.

The 13-million-member LDS church believes that its president is a prophet who will receive revelations from God that will help him run the church.

A tougher ticket than Springsteen?

About those pope tickets…

The Archdiocese of New York has apparently received requests for 102,000 tickets for the Yankee Stadium Mass.

tjndc5-5c0b3ec390nwnzuplo5_layout.jpgOnly problem is that Ruth’s house will hold 58,000 people.

Requests came in from almost every diocese in the United States. The Archdiocese of Boston sounds happy to have gotten 3,000.

Again, New Yorkers need to get tickets through their parishes (and tickets for the Yonkers youth rally through their Catholic schools and parish education programs). Information should be available any day now.

From Catholic New York: “Each parish will receive a set allotment of tickets (for Yankee Stadium), based on a percentage of the average Sunday Mass attendance that the parish has reported to the archdiocese.”

A football prayer

On the morning after the big game…

I have to wonder how many people slipped in a quick prayer yesterday for their beloved Giants.

tjndc5-5ikxgu7pha8wxck6aeq_layout.jpgGod, I won’t ask for anything so unimportant again for, well, the rest of the year, at least, but can’t you help Eli get this first down? Please….

Sound familiar, anyone?

I’m sure that a few sports writers out there are comparing the Giants’ big upset of the mighty Patriots to David’s downing of the mighty Goliath. I can see the parallel, of course, but it sure looked like the Giants had more Goliaths on their defense than the Patriots did.

And David at quarterback…

Goodbye, Bishop Bouman

The New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will hold a farewell service Sunday for outgoing Bishop Stephen Bouman, who is taking a key post with the national denomination.

tjndc5-5dxoalzio0h226pio0o_layout.jpgThe 4:30 p.m. service at St. Peter’s Church in Manhattan will be an emotional one, I’m sure, as Bouman has been a pretty popular leader of the ELCA in New York for nearly a dozen years. He took over shortly before I started on the religion beat, and I’ve always found him to be an honest and articulate representative of his tradition.

On Monday, Bouman becomes executive director of the Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Ministry Unit of the ELCA at the home office in Chicago.

Also Monday, Bishop David Olson, a former bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod, will become interim bishop for the New York Synod.

The synod will elect a new bishop to a six-year term at its upcoming Synod Assembly, May 15-17 right here at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown. I’ll write more about the process next week…

Covering the pope

I think I’ll stick with the media theme for a while…

The pope is coming, you know.

Benedict’s visit, April 15-20, may seem a long way off to most people. But for me, it’s right around the corner.

I’m immersed in preparing a Web page about the papal visit, which will feature videos, photo galleries, and all sorts of Web-styled doodads. I’ll also be writing more than few articles and features for LoHud.com and the Journal News.

tjndc5-5iexctvth0851eo0mta_layout.jpgThe funny thing is: the papal visit is, of course, a major event, a major story. But there may not be any real news.

We know what Benedict will be doing. And we know, more or less, what he’ll say (the general thrust, if not the specifics). I mean, he’s not going to show up at the U.N. and endorse preemptive war. He’s not going to pray with Christians of other traditions and emphasize their differences or failings.

So, in covering a major event that is largely ceremonial, the media will focus largely on the symbolism of it all. And we have to find the meaning, for those who participate and for those who are watching.

Any ideas, let me know…

Islam is a big story, you know

I’m always leery of writing about media coverage of religion.

Sometimes it seems that the media are obsessed with covering themselves. How many people really care, I wonder?

But the fact is that media coverage of religion shapes what many people know (and believe) about faith, especially faiths other than their own.

Take Islam. Americans have been quite focused on Islam for a good six years or so. But most Americans don’t know any Muslims.

So what most people do know about a very complicated worldwide religion — which has no organized leadership and varies dramatically in practice — comes from newspapers, the Web, TV and books.

How well do we cover Islam? It’s a tough question. But you can get a real good sense of the issues involved by checking out ReligionWriter.com, which has an interview with Terry Mattingly, a leading analyst of media coverage of religion.

bonotmatt.jpgMattingly (that’s him with some Christian artisit) founded a blog called GetReligion.com, which features real thoughtful criticism of how the media cover faith. It’s a well read blog, drawing in those folks who do really care about media coverage.

ReligionWriter is Andrea Useem, a freelance religion journalist. She’s also a Muslim, and writes about Islamic issues in a personal and truly fresh way, challenging the conventional wisdom at every turn.

Here’s a snippet of their interview:

RW: But to go back to the idea of religion “ghosts� being important in all stories, doesn’t that pose a problem? If an editor in Omaha says, “Yes, 9/11 is a story about religion,� and then dispatches a reporter to a local mosque to write a story on Islam and terrorism, then the reporter walks in with a template, looking for a way to connect a local Muslim community with international terrorism.

Mattingly: Of course a lot of Muslims feel attacked; they feel like reporters are constantly asking, “Explain to us why they did this.� At the same time, they feel just as attacked when you ask a factual question, like why were there some Muslims celebrating on 9/11? That’s a “When did you stop beating your wife?� question. But it’s a question that has to be asked.

There is a crisis in American journalism of being able to quote Muslims of different levels of Muslim belief who will critique each other: Reporters just don’t feel they can do it. What’s the journalistic solution? “Let’s call some Muslim experts.� So now a faculty member at Georgetown is explaining what is or isn’t Islam, which to me is almost like a form of cultural imperialism–