A photo of a prisoner holding a ball and chain

Prisoners overheard Photo courtesy Shutterstock

On Day 3 of the government shutdown, televangelist Rick Joyner thinks things have gotten so bad a military takeover of the federal government would improve the situation.

OK, back to the Roundup.

Trailing a group of men walking through a prison, Sister Helen Prejean (“Dead Man Walking”) overheard bits of what they were discussing. “I heard one saying, ‘He is so honest,’ but I didn’t catch who they were talking about at first.”

The men were 12 bishops who were visiting California’s death row in San Quentin prison and they were discussing Pope Francis. Yesterday, the pope met with the so-called Gang of Eight, or the Vatican G-8, to seek their counsel on possible reforms.

Also singing the pope’s praises? President Barack Obama:

“I have been hugely impressed with the pope’s pronouncements,” Obama said, describing Francis as “somebody who lives out the teachings of Christ. Incredible humility — incredible sense of empathy to the least of these, to the poor.”

Francis’ message hasn’t quite filtered down to the American bishops. North Carolina’s two Roman Catholic dioceses are severing a long-held ecumenical bond with the state’s Council of Churches because the council refused to talk about abortion and opposed an amendment to the constitution limiting marriage to heterosexuals.

Last week, Teresa MacBain was dismissed from her high-profile position at Harvard University’s Humanist Community after it was revealed she inflated her resume. Now skeptics are wondering if onetime clergy leading nonreligious groups is the best idea.

Forget the atheists. There’s a new religious category in the making, writes Cathy Lynn Grossman. Meet the “Nominals” — people who claim a religious identity but may live it in name only. These are people who rarely go to services, are indifferent to doctrine and fuzzy on Jesus.

More reflection on the landmark Pew Research survey of Jews: Rabbi David Wolpe wonders if liberal Judaism will survive.

A bus carrying a church group blew a tire, veered across a highway median and crashed into a sport utility vehicle and tractor-trailer in a fiery wreck that killed eight people along the Tennessee-North Carolina border.

From the department of religious scandals:

  •  The tragic story of a former deacon accused of shooting his pastor at a revival service in Louisiana just got more tragic. The sheriff of Calcasieu Parish told reporters that pastor Ronald Harris might have had a sexual relationship with the wife of the alleged shooter, Woodrow Karey.
  • Matthew Riedlinger, a priest in Jackson, N.J., quizzed his texting partner about sex videos, pressed for details about intimate liaisons, described sexual acts and encouraged mutual masturbation. He was recently granted leave from the priesthood.

Overseas: Buddhist mobs are clashing with Muslims and torching their homes in Myanmar.

Tunisia’s governing Islamist party, Ennahda, thrust into power by the Arab Spring, has agreed to step down after months of political wrangling with a hard-bargaining opposition.

A recent Barna survey showed that those who maintained their religion in college were twice as likely to have a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church.

The focus of the Christian faith is God’s love for us, not our love for God, says Tullian Tchividjian, Billy Graham’s grandson. He talks candidly to our own Jonathan Merritt about changing the focus of his sermons:

 “I’m so embarrassed by many of the sermons I preached early on. I wish I could go back and apologize to all the people who heard them. My primary concern at that time was to get people to do more, try harder, and change. The end result was stunted spiritual growth for our people because I was causing them to fix their eyes on themselves rather than on Christ.”

Ten Mormon missionaries have died so far in 2013, far above typical levels. And while LDS church officials insist the spike doesn’t represent a trend, it has raised anew the question: Is missionary work safe?

In the obituary column: Israel Gutman, who took part in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, survived three Nazi concentration camps and became a prominent historian of the Holocaust, died.

Leonard J. Kerpelman, a Baltimore lawyer and gadfly who successfully argued a landmark Supreme Court case in 1963 that led to a ban on state-supported prayer in public schools, died too.

And finally, from the department of ethics: The feisty Irish singer-songwriter Sinéad O’Connor has a message for Miley Cyrus: Don’t twerk and get naked just for the record execs.

“That is absolutely not in any way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.








  1. Your summary, “The focus of the Christian faith is our love for God instead of God’s love for us, says Tullian Tchividjian, Billy Graham’s grandson.” Misrepresents what Tchividjian says in the linked interview by 180 degrees and is totally misleading.

  2. May I quote from the NYtimes article linked to:”The people talking about him were 12 bishops who were visiting California’s death row in San Quentin prison, the home to more than 700 condemned men.” So not prisoners, but catholic bishops, as yet unjailed…

  3. Thanks for doing the story on Rick Joyner and his military takeover comments. One does wonder why and how he and is network maintain their tax exempt status. One also wonders if he has not been visited by the Secret Service. Well, it’s on to read the full story about Joyner and his military takeover comments. So patriotic!

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