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Fans gather at the Centennial Flame to sing “Give Peace a Chance” on the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination on Dec. 8, 2010 in Ottawa, Ontario. Photo courtesy of Paul McKinnon via Shutterstock

John Lennon’s killer now believes “All You Need Is Love”

Cathy Lynn Grossman Aug 29, 2014

The man who murdered John Lennon wants only one thing now — to tell others about Jesus.

Mark David Chapman, 59, told parole examiners he was no longer the man who sought notoriety through killing the Beatles rock star in 1980.

Now, he said, he’s sorry, “forgiven by God” and eager to spend his days — in prison or out — ministering to others.

Examiners denied Chapman the possibility of parole for the eighth time on Aug. 20. According to the 25-page transcript of the hearing, Chapman expected that finding. He will continue serving 20 years to life at the Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, near Buffalo, N.Y.

In his last parole hearing in 2012, the transcript shows, he was just as interested in testifying about his religious faith.

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Review: “Playing with Religion in Digital Games”

Ariel Morrison Aug 28, 2014

What does religion have to do with video games? A collection of writings from scholars and gamers around the globe, the recently released volume “Playing with Religion in Digital Games,” attempts to answer that question. From fantasy massively multiplayer online role-playing games like World of Warcraft, to hugely popular games like Grand Theft Auto, Legend of Zelda, and Halo, games are bigger than ever, and the contributors to this collection of essays investigate the religious undertones, themes and symbols that are part of the structure of digital games and gaming community.

The twelve essays comprising this volume address those religious narratives in digital games with a view toward the bigger picture of gaming’s cultural significance. Because gaming “can be seen as simultaneously playful and providing the inculcation of certain beliefs and behaviors,” as editors Campbell and Grieve state in the introduction, then it must be observed as a culture builder (pp. 15). Where does religion fit in the culture created by these games? The emotions and experiences of lead players might introduce religious themes into plotlines as a way to understand the complex system that is modern gaming, and these themes may influence how viewers perceive the game’s world and the landscape of religion.

American dies fighting for Islamic State [with video]

John Bacon Aug 27, 2014

(RNS) An American who lived in Minnesota and San Diego and had recently converted to Islam was killed in Syria, where he had gone to fight alongside terrorists, officials say.

A national security spokeswoman at the White House, Caitlin Hayden, confirmed the death of Douglas McCain, 33, and said U.S. officials had been aware of his presence in Syria.

McCain had traveled to Syria to join a militant group, believed to be the Islamic State, the Associated Press reported, citing a U.S. official who declined to be identified by name and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

A relative, Kenneth McCain, said the State Department had called his family to report that Douglas McCain had been killed in Syria, AP reported.

Tuesday Morning Meme, featuring #icebucketchallenge

Greg Perreault Aug 26, 2014

bikdcSome people will find problems with anything. Haters gonna hate.

Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner collected signatures for a statement by leaders of African-American church groups about Ferguson, Mo. Photo by Patricia McDougall, courtesy of Trinity United Church of Christ.

Ferguson letter from black clergy becomes interracial call for justice

Adelle M. Banks Aug 25, 2014

As the Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner collected signatures for a statement by leaders of African-American church groups about the Ferguson, Mo., police shooting of Michael Brown, she found more people wanted to join in.

The general secretary of the National Council of Churches wanted to add his name; an Asian-American evangelical leader, too.

What started out as a “Joint Statement of Heads of Historic African American Church Denominations” has become an interracial cry for justice.

Thomas G. Hungar, who argued for the town of Greece, New York, speaks to the media after oral arguments at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday (Nov. 6). RNS photo by Katherine Burgess

Atheists may not pray, Brevard (Fla.) county commissioners say

Kimberly Winston Aug 22, 2014

A group of county commissioners in Florida is testing a recent Supreme Court decision by banning atheists from delivering an invocation before local public meetings.

Five members of the Brevard County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday (Aug. 20) against permitting a local atheist from delivering a prayer or invocation before their public meetings. They also voted to limit remarks from nonreligious people to the “public comments” section of their meetings.

In a letter to David Williamson, founder of the Central Florida Freethought Community, the board wrote, “The prayer is delivered during the ceremonial portion of the county’s meeting, and typically invokes guidance for the County Commission from the highest spiritual authority, a higher authority which a substantial body of Brevard constituents believe to exist.”

Robin Williams arriving at The 33rd Annual People’s Choice Awards in 2007. Photo courtesy of s_bukley via Shutterstock

Suicide rates higher among baby boomer men, study finds

Kathleen O'Brien Aug 21, 2014

(RNS) Robin Williams’ suicide may not have been that surprising: Baby boomer men are 60 percent more likely to take their own life than their fathers’ generation, according to a Rutgers University sociologist.

The trend is particularly alarming because middle age is typically a time when suicide rates decline before rising again in old age.

Suicide usually rises drastically during adolescence and young adulthood, then typically levels off in middle age, according to Julie Phillips, a Rutgers sociology professor who researched the effect of unemployment and the Great Recession on suicide rates nationally.

That plateau hasn’t happened with today’s baby boomer men.

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11 Signs You Went To Christian high school

Greg Perreault Aug 20, 2014

You always knew you were different because you went to Christian high school. Was it faith stuff? Sure, but that’s not all.
1. You know WAAY to many obscure facts about the Bible…

Who wrote 1st Timothy? Paul did. Ephesians? Paul did. Galatians? Still Paul. 2nd Thessalonians? Yep, Paul. Acts? Gotcha! It’s probably Luke but nobody knows.

Think the Bible is unreliable. You’ve got an answer for that: there are only 20 early manuscript copies of Tacitus and no one can attest to their interreliability. But the Bible? Keep your cap on fool, there 5600 early copies and they are 99.5% interreliable. Thanks high school!

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The Mind and the Buddha Inside Us

Gabbie Rhodes Aug 18, 2014

This summer I have recently read a few chapters of a book called The Zen Teachings of Bodhidharma. In it the actual Zen creator, Bodhidharma, explains Zen Buddhism in further detail and one of the chapters that has really resonated with me is called the Bloodstream Sermon. In this section it teaches that everything stems from the mind and that our own mind is really the Buddha. Essentially that means that there is no Buddha to be looked for or found anywhere, and that searching for a Buddha or praising images of a Buddha does not give someone enlightenment. In fact, the very idea of doing those things is insulting to the whole practice and will not give anyone long lasting results.