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Discussing religion, spirituality and values. Amy Umble is the religion reporter for The Free Lance-Star. You can email her at
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Some Updates

I’ve been out sick for a week, so I’m behind on some of this, and I apologize for giving it to you all at once, but better to get you updated now than never, right?

1. Tomorrw is Hug a Jew Day. This comes from a Facebook site: Heres the story: I was invited one day to an "International-Hug-An-Asian-Day." I thought this was a great idea and said, "Hey why don’t we have a hug a Jew day?" I am Jewish and I have not seen one so I made one. Another reason for this was that during these times the Jews are having some hard times. We need to show each other love, Jews, half-Jews, even quarter-Jews. Jews need to spread the love to Jews and non-Jews alike. Whether you are a Jew or not, take this day as a special opportunity to grab a Jew and show them that you care and support them.

Sounds fun!

2. The First Church of Christ, Scientist launched The site features personal testimonies from people talking about their experience with the church and with being healed.

3. The head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints died Sunday. The funeral will be Saturday and will be broadcast 1 p.m. at three local church buildings: at the Bragg Road chapel, the stake center and the Culpeper Chapel. It will also be broadcast at the visitors center of the Washington DC Temple and on BYU TV on direcTV and Dish Network. Glenn Beck, a talk show host and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, offered this tribute.

4. From Religion News Service:

Jesus Wants Your Vote — and He Needs a Running Mate

by Matthew Streib

Religion News Service

WASHINGTON — He walked on water, he turned water to wine, and now he wants to be your candidate for president.

That’s right, it’s Jesus, ready to lead the free world after President Bush leaves the White House next year. There’s only one hitch: he doesn’t have a platform. Or, for that matter, a running mate.

Jesus’ would-be political goals are up for a vote on a new Web site launched this month, A sort of nominating convention, the site invites participants to academically infer his stances on modern politics and choose a contemporary running mate, using the results as a voting guide in November.

So far, only California Attorney General Jerry Brown has been floated as a possible V.P., and delegates are parsing Jesus’ positions on health care (he doesn’t trust HMOs), the environment (he’d be pro-conservation) and church-state separation ("Does Jesus have to recuse himself on this one?" one person asked).

"I’m probably not alone in feeling that somehow we are not getting the best possible candidates for president or the best possible process," says Stephen Heffner, the site’s creator. A former newspaper reporter and a nonpracticing Catholic, Heffner thinks that Jesus is the kind of revolutionary that this country needs.

"My sense is that if Jesus were here, he would do the right thing, without needing a political strategist giving him what he thinks people want to hear," he says.

Even though it’s about Jesus, the site attempts to be nonreligious. If Jesus were to use miracles to solve the energy crisis or fund Social Security, strategic debate would be pointless.

The Jesus running in 2008 is not divine, Heffner says, but rather "Jesus the man, the revolutionary individual who comes to us through history as a model for ethical and moral human behavior."

Heffner wants the debate to be intellectual and pragmatic, tempered with examples from the Bible, not a back-and-forth of sweeping dogma. There are only three rules on the site: no miracles, no preaching, no rude behavior.

The Rev. Jim Wallis, the progressive evangelical who founded Sojourners/Call to Renewal and author of the new book, "The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post-Religious Right America," says Christian values can be a helpful tool to establishing a government, but finding a candidate in Jesus’ image is not a political panacea.

"The ethics of Jesus will not be adopted by a nation, but they will be adopted by the followers of Jesus to shape the nation," he says. "The Sermon on the Mount would not be a political platform. Changes in society are like reforms; you make one, and then you make another."

Wallis adds, however, that divining what Jesus would prioritize brings perspective to national issues.

"Would Jesus care about 30,000 children dying worldwide from poverty every day or would he care about a gay marriage amendment in Ohio? That’s a fair question."

Jacques Berlinerblau, who teaches at Georgetown University and is author of "Thumpin’ It: The Use and Abuse of the Bible in Today’s Presidential Politics," says the site has the potential to become quite popular, because it reflects the ubiquitous nature of religion in American politics.

"It works in two senses: it will let the secularists and nonbelievers get their ya-yas out because it’ll be funny to see evangelicals and fundamentalists fume," Berlinerblau said. "But if it’s also an actual conversation to discuss what Jesus would want as a candidate, it could make people think harder about the choices they make in the political process."

But would he vote for Jesus?

"Perhaps," Berlinerblau says. "The Jesus that I’ve constructed in my mind, the Jesus that I like, but that’s my Jesus. When you ask people would you want Jesus to be your president, people would almost always answer yes, but different people have different Jesuses. It’s when Jesus enters the public sphere that people start to argue.