By Arielle Hawkins, CNN
Here's the Belief Blog’s morning rundown of the top faith-angle stories from around the United States and around the world. Click the headlines for the full stories.
From the Blog:
U.S. President Barack Obama shakes the hand of Reverend Luis León while leaving St. John's Protestant Episcopal Church with first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters.
CNN: Obama picks D.C. Episcopal priest to deliver inauguration benediction
The president has picked a neighbor to deliver the closing prayer at the inauguration. The Rev. Luis León told CNN on Tuesday the White House and the Presidential Inaugural Committee invited him last week to deliver the closing prayer at the 57th Presidential Inauguration. León pastors Saint John’s Church, an Episcopal parish just across Lafayette Park from the White House, dubbed the “Church of the Presidents.”
CNN iReport: Why I Raise My Children Without God
Deborah Mitchell, a mother of two teenagers in Texas, blogs about raising her children without religion. An avid reader of the Belief Blog, she said she shared this essay on CNN iReport because 'I just felt there is not a voice out there for women/moms like me. I think people misunderstand or are fearful of people who don’t believe in God.'
Tweet of the Day:
Photos of the Day:
A Jewish man throws votive candles into a burning pyre as another blows a shofar at the grave of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzera, known as the sage Baba Sali, on January 15, 2013 in the southern Israeli town of Netivot, Israel. Thousands of Jews, mainly of Moroccan origin, gathered to pray and hold festivities at the tomb of the respected rabbi who was known as a miracle maker by religious Jews.
A Jewish man dances at the grave of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzera, known as the sage Baba Sali, on January 15, 2013 in the southern Israeli town of Netivot, Israel.
An Indian boy in costume and an adorned cattle participate in the 'Sankranti' festival celebrations in Bangalore on January 15, 2013. Sankranti, the Hindu harvest festival, marks the beginning of the month in the solar calendars followed in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa.
Belief on TV:
Huffington Post: Westboro Baptist Church Gets Permit To Protest President Barack Obama Inauguration
The Westboro Baptist Church has secured a permit to protest the second inauguration of President Barack Obama. A press release issued by the Westboro Baptist Church on Saturday revealed the group's plans to protest Obama's inauguration on Jan. 21. On Tuesday, The Huffington Post confirmed with the National Park Service that the Westboro Baptist Church has secured a permit to picket along Pennsylvania Avenue at the north sidewalk, southeast corner of John Marshall Park, from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 21.
Reuters: Saudi clerics protest against appointing women to advisory body
Dozens of Saudi clerics staged a rare protest in front of the Royal Court on Tuesday against King Abdullah's decision to appoint women to a body that advises the government on new laws, a sign of growing conservative unease at modest social reforms. On Friday, King Abdullah appointed 30 women to the Shura Council, giving them a fifth of the seats in the consultative body – a move he promised to make in 2011. The kingdom's top religious authorities including the Grand Mufti accepted that decision, but the gathering of about 50 clerics outside the Royal Court suggested wider disquiet among conservatives in the world's top oil producer.
The Guardian: Kumbh Mela festival is proof that crowds can be good for you
Once a year, at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in northern India, something truly remarkable happens. During the lunar month of Magh, spanning January and February, a vast tented city comes into being. Pilgrims (kalpwasi) gather to bathe twice daily in the Ganges and live a life of spiritual devotion. Once every 12 years at the Kumbh (full) Mela (assembly), this arguably becomes the largest city on Earth. Many millions can attend the event on a single day. Kumbh Mela is overcrowded, noisy and unsanitary, but a study suggests it improves devotees' mental and physical wellbeing.
The Guardian: Pope's secretary "Gorgeous George" on Vanity Fair cover
Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Pope Benedict's private secretary, who has been dubbed "Gorgeous George" by the Italian media, is now a real-life cover boy. The prelate has landed on the cover of Vanity Fair. The magazine calls Ganswein "The George Clooney of St Peter's" and says it dedicated a cover story to honor his recent promotion to the rank of archbishop and as recognition of his growing power in the Roman Catholic Church.
Religion News Service: Europeans launch campaign to declare life starts at conception
Anti-abortion groups from 20 different countries have launched a petition to ask the European Parliament to recognize that life begins at conception. The “One of Us” initiative is the first of its kind in Europe and represents a larger effort to forge a cohesive continental anti-abortion movement. “At the foundation of this challenge is the idea that abortion is not inevitable,” wrote Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, presenting the initiative on Jan. 7.
Huffington Post: Tel Shiloh Archaeological Dig Pitcher Suggests Biblical City In Israel Burned To Ground
A pitcher found during an Israeli archeological dig may shed light on a biblical mystery that has gone unsolved for thousands of years. The broken clay pitcher, discovered in a bed of ashes in the Tel Shiloh dig site in Samaria, Israel, suggests that the ancient city - once the de facto capital city and spiritual center of ancient Israel - was burned to the ground, the Tazpit News Agency reports. From the news outlet: “The ashes found attest to a devastating fire the occurred at the site. The dating of the clay pitcher, 1,050 BCE, correlates with the dating of the events depicted in Book of Samuel.”
The Catholic Herald: US Franciscan province offers 'text-a-prayer-intention' service
Often, prayer intentions are offered with hands folded, but a new service allows hands and fingers to move freely - provided a cell phone is handy. The New York-based Holy Name Province of the Franciscans has started a service it calls "Text a Prayer Intention to a Franciscan Friar." The service debuted in January with the new year.
Quote of the Day:
The world is not full of good and bad people. That is not what our scriptures teach us. And when we are bad or isolated or angry or furious or vengeful or politically agitated or confused or lost or deranged or unhinged, and we have the ability to get and use weapons only designed to kill large numbers of people our society is in great danger.
- Rev. Jim Wallis, the evangelical who heads the progressive Christian group Sojourners.
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CNN: 'American Taliban' wins right to group prayer in prison
The man known as the "American Taliban" won a legal fight that will allow him and fellow Muslim inmates to gather for daily prayers. A federal judge ruled Friday that the warden at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, was violating John Walker Lindh's rights by not allowing the religious activities. Lindh argued that before 2007 Muslim prisoners were allowed to pray together for at least three of Islam's five daily prayers. Since then, with the exception of the holy month of Ramadan, the Muslim prisoners are allowed to gather only once a week.