Matters of faith
Super Bowl football may be a 'religious' experience for many fans, but young people across the United States are adding something extra to this Sunday's celebration. For the 16th annual Souper Bowl, they'll carry soup pots to thousands of congregations, businesses, and Super Bowl parties to collect money and canned goods for local charities. Started by church youth groups in Columbia, S.C., in 1990, the volunteer effort went national in 1993. Last year, 12,000 churches in 50 states raised $5 million for the needy in their communities. In 2007, more than 17,000 are involved, hoping to score $8 million. On Saturday, youths will volunteer at charities in the Souper Bowl Service Blitz.
Love that iPod? How about a new audio GoBible in sleek black? The entire King James or New King James versions are now available in a preloaded, hand-held device. New technology lets users search for specific verses or stories, identify verses related to a select topic, or even achieve the goal of "reading" the entire Bible in a year. A special feature organizes passages into 12- to 15-minute daily segments so that one could listen to the whole set of scriptures in 365 days. A kit lets you listen in a car or through a stereo. Cost: $99.95. (For more info: www.gobible.com or 866-GOBIBLE).
Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton announced last month the formation of a new coalition of Baptists to give a stronger voice to moderates in the faith. The coalition of 40 denominations and organizations, white and black, will work toward a "New Baptist Covenant" and their first convention early in 2008.
"There's too much of an image in the Baptist world, and among non-Christians," said Mr. Carter, "that the main, permeating characteristic of Christian groups is animosity toward one another" and an inability to cooperate.
In 2000, conservatives won a battle for leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest US Protestant denomination, with 16 million members. That led, among other changes, to barring women from serving as pastors. Carter left the denomination soon after. The new coalition includes four historically black churches and several predominantly white groups, which together have more than 20 million members.
The group said, "We clearly share a moral passion and sense of vocation to save the imperiled living world before our damages to it remake it as another kind of planet." They committed to a shared effort "drawing on the unique intellectual, spiritual, and moral contributions that each community can bring."
Thirty-nine percent of Americans are happy with the current influence of organized religion in the US, says a Gallup poll released this week. Some 32 percent would like organized religion to have less influence, and 27 percent would like it to have more.