Bull Humbug by WilleeCole via Shutterstock

Bull Humbug by WilleeCole via Shutterstock (Image source)

It’s Christmas Eve. I wish I could fill a roundup with good Christmas news. But, as on most days, the inspiring news springs from desperate places. We will start with the imam and the archbishop working shoulder to shoulder in the blood-soaked Central African Republic. And note the 11-year-old boy who decided — when he was six — that he should spend this day every year handing out Christmas gifts to the homeless in downtown Detroit.

The Imam and the Archbishop

Amidst all the Muslim-Christian reprisal killings in the Central African Republic, Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga has opened his church as a refuge for Christians — but also Muslims — at risk of attack. One of those Muslims is Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, the most senior Muslim cleric in the land. Together they have been trying to quell religious violence which, many say, is a manufactured byproduct of a political conflict.

Fewer ‘Toys From Hell’ This Year

There are fewer “Toys From Hell” in circulation this year. What you leave under the tree for the children on your list this Christmas is less likely to maim, poison or suffocate them as compared to the presents of previous years. The kids may thank Santa. You may thank the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and a toy industry terrified of litigation.

And Ohio Makes Nineteen?

Eighteen states and the D.C. now permit gay marriage, but given an Ohio federal judge’s ruling Monday that same-sex couples have the right to note their marriages on death certificates, the definition of marriage in the Buckeye State could soon expand beyond one man and one woman. The case was about death certificates, but the language was sweeping. Judge Timothy Black:

. . .  the question presented is whether a state can do what the federal government cannot — i.e., discriminate against same-sex couples … simply because the majority of the voters don’t like homosexuality . . .

Counterpoint: William Baude argues that the decision may not have as much impact as some expect.

Pastor Seriously In Critical Condition After Gas Pump Explosion

The Rev. David Wentroble of Central Presbyterian Church in Havestraw, N.Y., is also a hospital chaplain. The explosion, at a gas pump in Connecticut, burned 20 percent of his body. He is in a medically-induced coma and will need skin grafts and months of rehabilitation.

Papal Itinerary From Hell

Here, according to David Gibson, is what Pope Francis has to accomplish when he’s in the Holy Land and environs in May: Reassure the Israelis that he supports them, do the same for the Palestinians, encourage the Middle East’s beleaguered Christians, improve Catholic-Orthodox Christian relations, hold Mass in Bethlehem . . . and maybe other places where other people want him to hold Mass. Someone remember to give the man a falafel and let him have a nice float in the Dead Sea.

Half of U.S. Will Have a White Christmas

Sit down, Easterners, with your brownish-greenish Christmas. The postcard Christmas will be out west, in the mountains and other snowy places. But in a typical year only 40 percent of American land is snow-covered on Dec. 25 according to the National Weather Service, which has a precise definition of “white Christmas” — at least one inch of snow on the ground, which arrives on or prior to Dec. 25.

What Muslims Do on Christmas?

Everyone knows Jews go to the movies and eat Chinese food on Christmas (though really, Thai has been the Yuletide cuisine of choice for the people of the book for some years now.) But what about Muslims Americans? Some imams advise Muslims to stay away from the holiday. But more and more in the U.S., Omar Sacirbey writes, Muslims — who consider Jesus a prophet after all — are establishing their own Christmas traditions.

The Star of Bethlehem  . . . NOT

Our own Kimberly Winston interviews physicist Aaron Adair’s on his new book, The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View. It’s a fun interview! And not so bah-humbuggy as you might fear this day before Christmas. For example, Winston asks if it could have been a comet or a meteor. Adair responds:

It could not have been a meteor because they are extremely common and short-lived and could not have hovered over Jesus’ location. There was a comet in about 5 B.C.E. but it would have been moving in the wrong direction. And comets were considered the most ominous sign in ancient astrology, not something that would herald the coming of a Jewish king.

An Arabic Lutheran Church In Brooklyn

It used to be filled with Norwegians. But now Our Saviour’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhood is also home to the Salam Arabic Lutheran Church, a congregation filled with a rich assortment of Christians fleeing all sorts of troubles in the Middle East.

The Church of the Nativity’s Roof

It’s in sorry shape. The good news is that the three denominations charged with its care have agreed, despite longstanding tensions, on a fix-it plan, Michelle Chabin reports from Bethlehem. Of course this is also a very political story too, involving Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and UNESCO.

Duck Dynasty Reminder

You thought we were going to end this roundup without one? But it’s only day five or six of this story. Here’s some twuth ( a truthful tweet, did I just coin that?)

Bonus tracks

Cathy Lynn Grossman’s obit for Edgar Bronfman.

Charles Krauthammer explains why he is a skeptic but not an atheist.

Mark Silk explains the cure for FDS – “Francis Derangement Syndrome.” 

RNS is not your favorite charity

We know we’re not. We’re well fed. We got to go to college. Our roof is not caving in. But make us your second favorite charity this holiday season. Objective, serious religion reporting — and thoughtful and incisive commentary — is what makes us unique in the global media landscape. It’s all religion, all the time at this little non-profit. Please consider a donation of any size to help defray the cost.

The roundup takes a break tomorrow, but will return the day after Christmas. I hope it’s a holly, jolly, merry, happy one. And give yourself a little Christmas gift no matter your faith or lack of: the roundup in your mailbox every weekday except Christmas. It’s free and spamless. Just put your email address in the box below.

- Lauren Markoe

A special thanks to Sarah Pulliam Bailey for sending me roundup fodder late into the night and early in the morning.

Categories: Beliefs

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe covered government and features as a daily newspaper reporter for 15 years before joining the Religion News Service staff as a national correspondent in 2011. She previously was Washington correspondent for The State (Columbia, S.C.)

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