CULTURE DIGEST: NBC highlights 'Faith in America'; Rice makes statement by attending church in China

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--During the week of March 20, NBC has carried a series it calls "Faith in America," taking a closer look during each news broadcast at the various elements of faith in today's American culture. Topics have included covenant marriage, biblical dieting, religion's role in sex education, managing money God's way and Christian sports ministries, among others.

In a segment titled "The faith-at-work movement," NBC featured Southern Baptist pastor Ronnie Floyd of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., who hosts a weekly lunch for business leaders that has attracted successful figures such as the former CEO of Blockbuster Entertainment, the CEO of Tyson Foods and the late pro-football star Reggie White.

NBC said after the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001 and the scandals at Enron, WorldCom and other leading companies, a movement is afoot to embed Christian principles into corporate structures. And a door has been opened for faith in the workplace to teach "the transforming power of ethical leadership."

David Miller, executive director of Yale University's Center for Faith and Culture, noted to NBC that Northwest Arkansas -- where FBC Springdale is located -- is home to mega-companies Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods, J.B. Hunt and others.

"There are certain geographies that gain a critical mass, and exciting things happen in the business community, [like] Silicon Valley," he said. "... Northwest Arkansas seems to have become a booming, creative, interesting place for businesses, which means they attract people from all over the country.

"Combine that with a wonderful heartland America sort of feel, where people are not embarrassed by who they are or what they believe, and that creates an environment where it could be a fertile soil for the faith-at-work movement to take root and blossom," Miller said.

NBC mentioned that Floyd is a former chairman of the SBC Executive Committee and manages two neighboring churches with more than 14,000 members. Floyd told the broadcast company that it's one thing for a "rabid right-winger" to talk about God but quite another for the head of a corporation with access to a worldwide network of contractors, suppliers and retailers to be inspired by the Great Commission of making disciples of all nations.

An NBC News poll during the series said 58 percent of respondents indicated their religious beliefs played some role in the decisions they made at work and 65 percent said those beliefs influenced how they interacted with co-workers. Miller said three subjects that were off-limits in the workplace 30 years ago -- politics, sex and religion -- are no longer avoided.

"Now we see that people are able to talk about sex very freely, and politics everybody talks about now," he said. "It seems like it's almost a logical extension [for] faith."

RICE MAKES RELIGIOUS FREEDOM STATEMENT ABROAD -- During her recent trip to Asia Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice emphasized the importance of freedom of religion by going out of her way to attend Palm Sunday services at a church in communist China.

The daughter of a Presbyterian minister, Rice worshiped at Gangwashi Protestant Church, one of China's few state-sanctioned churches, the evening of March 20 rather than attending one of the many Protestant churches in Seoul, South Korea, where she spent the morning and afternoon, The New York Times reported.

China allows Gangwashi to function openly if the church uses only hymns and Scripture approved by the government.

Rice sat on the front row during the service and wore headphones to hear a translation of the minister's message, The Times said. As the 500 congregants sang the hymn "Constantly Abiding" in Chinese, Rice sang along in English.

Observers say the secretary of state's visit to a church in China sent a message to the country's leaders that the United States takes religious freedom seriously and expects other nations to do the same.

CARDINAL SHUNS 'DA VINCI CODE' -- Two years after the release of the bestseller "The Da Vinci Code," a Vatican leader finally has commented on the book that, among other things, claims Jesus was married and fathered a child with Mary Magdalene.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the archbishop of Genoa and one of the most senior figures in the Catholic Church, told Vatican Radio March 16 that no one should read The Da Vinci Code and Catholic bookstores should stop selling it, according to The Washington Post.

"There is a very real risk that many people who read it will believe that the fables it contains are true," he said.

During an interview inside the Vatican, Bertone told Reuters that the book is "rotten food" that does harm and not good.

"This book is a sack full of lies against the Church, against the real history of Christianity and against Christ Himself," he said.

Eighteen million copies of the book have sold worldwide, and a movie starring Tom Hanks is expected for release next year.


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