Yes, there is a Darth Vader gargoyle on the National Cathedral.

Yes, there is a Darth Vader gargoyle on the National Cathedral. Darth Vader Gargoyle via Wikimedia Commons

This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

From the death penalty fiasco in Oklahoma to the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” — again — plus a lot of religion news from the world of entertainment.

Will botched execution turn tide on capital punishment?

Oklahoma’s failed science experiment, a.k.a. the lethal injection that was supposed to execute a convicted murderer last night, is horrifying to read about — inmate Clayton Lockett finally died of a heart attack. But it is also raising questions about “cruel and unusual punishment” and the morality and ethics of the death penalty.

Faith leaders push for minimum wage hike

The religious leaders want Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour by 2016, saying it was a moral issue and “indispensable to ensuring that no worker will suffer the indignity of poverty.” The Senate is to vote on the measure today.

Meanwhile, Adelle Banks reports on how evangelicals are headed back to the Hill to make another push for immigration reform.

The Faith of “The Force”

The big religion news, of course, is that the cast of the next “Star Wars” installment has been announced, and it includes your faves from the last actually good “Star Wars” movie (cue comments), and picks up three decades after “Return of the Jedi.” How will Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher fare as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia? For us religion geeks, a better question may be how the many devoted followers of the Jedi “religion” and the entire cosmology of “Star Wars” will fare. Can there be another revelation or has the age of the prophets ended in LucasLand? Let the debates begin.

If only Charlton Heston were alive …

He could have a cameo in the coming remake of “Ben-Hur,” the classic 1959 swords-and-sandals epic that he starred in — which was in turn based on Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.” (Remember Heston’s nifty role-reversal under all that damn dirty makeup in the 2001 remake of “Planet of the Apes?”) Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, fresh off their “Son of God” success, are behind this one too, slated for a 2016 release. How much more can they mine from the Bible?

Jesus’ on again, off again marriage — now off again

Speaking of biblical dramas, the latest evidence to come to light about the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” makes it appear that the blockbuster discovery may indeed be a fake. Joel S. Baden and Candida R. Moss provide details in a column at CNN. Stay tuned for next week’s news that the couple are back together again …

Speaking of Jesus and divorce…

Ross Douthat has a magisterial (which some one on Twitter recently defined as a word to tell readers “Its really long and I read it!”) blog post on the implications of Pope Francis and the debate over changing — or not — church teaching on divorce and remarriage and communion. He really chews over the history, tradition, theology and implications of reform. He plays off of our coverage on the pope’s call to an Argentine woman in an “irregular” marriage, as the church would say — but that’s not the only papal gesture that’s causing conservative Catholic tsurris. His “inequality tweet continues to resonate.

Vatican un-muzzles an Irish priest

Sign of the times? The Rev. Sean Fagan was silenced by Rome under Pope Benedict XVI six years ago and now that ban has been lifted, apparently thanks to a direct intervention by Pope Francis.

BTW, our Vatican correspondent Jo McKenna says we shouldn’t look for a serious overhaul of the Roman Curia until next year.

Quote of the Day: Cardinal Timothy Dolan

“The day of old, fat, balding bishops like me being the best spokespeople for the Church is long gone,” the New York archbishop told a seminar of church communicators in Rome. The church “now needs to have trained, competent lay people to represent them!” I guess that lets me out. I’ve got the “lay” part covered though.

Read more here.

Headline of the Day

From the Guardian on a story out of Spain:

“Spanish government to face court after policing award given to the Virgin Mary”


“Secularists demand the medal be revoked, arguing that the Virgin has not met any of the minimum requirements”

Hard to resist that one.

Was the First World War a Holy War?

As we approach the centenary of that great catastrophe, historian Philip Jenkins has a good read on a great question about a terrible topic:

I do not personally believe in the sanctity of any war, leave alone the confused bloodbath that began in 1914. But the overwhelmingly Christian Europe of those years certainly did believe in Holy War, and treated that conflict accordingly. If we ignore that element, we are missing the heart of the story. Religion is essential to understanding the war, to understanding why people went to war, what they hoped to achieve through war, and why they stayed at war.

Does the equation “Allah=God” add up?

The language debate is heating up in a Colorado high school where the kids recited the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic, which means that when they got to the “under God” part, well, you can imagine the rest. The principal is under fire, Fox News is on the case, and conservatives are upset. Though not all — Rod Dreher offers this counterpoint: “There are a million things to complain about regarding radical Islam. This is not one of them.”

The Pentagon denies soldiers’ request to dress in accordance with beliefs

Via Reuters: Two soldiers had their requests under a new policy denied. “The policy approved on January 22 was mainly expected to affect Sikhs, Muslims, Jews and other groups that wear beards, long hair or articles of clothing such as turbans and yarmulkes. It also could affect Wiccans and others who obtain tattoos for religious reasons.” The Pentagon did not identify the religion of the two soldiers in question.

The Best of the Rest from RNS

Stay tuned to this space for the latest developments on these stories and more…

David Gibson

Categories: Culture

David Gibson

David Gibson

David Gibson is an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He is a national reporter for RNS and has written two books on Catholic topics, the latest a biography of Pope Benedict XVI.


  1. I don’t comment on the Death Penalty much — either your state has it or your state does not have it, and no amount of comment sections will change your state’s current situation.

    But look at this Lockett guy. This guy and his pals broke into a house, beat up the young woman, then shot her with a sawed-off gun, and THEN buried her while she was still alive. That’s how the girl died–a nice and slow agony. No drugs at all to ease the pain of HER death penalty. Buried Alive.

    So Mr. Lockett sure got off EASY for what he did to that girl. A comparative cake-walk in the park for him. I’m sure he enjoyed it. So Oklahoma didn’t do anything wrong.

    Why aren’t the libbie DP opponents all outraged over the VICTIM’s death penalty?

    So there’s no need for Oklahoma or any state to repeal the death penalty

  2. Doc Anthony: A recent study indicates that almost 4% of convictions on death row are wrong (see Van Drehle’s article in Time, 4/28). Is it supposed to be ok that those people are executed by torture too?

  3. So much bad going on in the world today and neo-cons are worried about a pledge of allegiance in Arabic that says under God, but in Arabic under Allah. Who really cares? Those that howl the most about this “injustice’ are the ones, Ive found, that fight the most against Christ’s admonitions to feed the poor, care for the sick, visit those in prision etc. Hypocrites all! Oh, and the very nature f war says that war cannot be holy. There is no good war, all war is bad. Sometimes countries are justified in using force to defend against an invader but that still does not make any war good! As Bertrand Russell says war does not decide who is right, it only tells who is left. That’s a paraphrase, but you get the idea. It’s one of my favorite quotes and all people would do good to heed the idea that war does not solve problems it only creates death for those who are fighting each other.

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