Faithful Well-Versed in Stockpiling

One group of Americans was way ahead of the curve in stockpiling provisions for terrorist attacks or other emergencies.

Mormons, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for more than 100 years have made a habit of maintaining several weeks' worth of extra provisions. The practice dates in part to the church's founding in the 19th century, when members of the unpopular sect had to move with little warning as state militias raided their communities and drove them from the East and Midwest to Utah. It's also grounded in founder Joseph Smith's "law of consecration," which instructs followers to pool their belongings to assist the poor. Maintaining emergency supplies is something church members "are always encouraged to do," said Pat Kimsey of Salt Lake City. "Every time the terrorism meter goes up and they advise people to be prepared, I think, 'Yeah, we've been doing that [in our family] for 30 years.' "

The church's Web site has a comprehensive checklist on basic needs for one year or one month, including food and medical supplies, as well as instructions for storing water and rotating supplies. There's no mention of duct tape.

Most in Armed Forces Are Religious

Much has been made of the religious undercurrents of the war in Iraq, most notably the broad interplay between Christianity and Islam. But it is personal faith that most combatants are interested in, military chaplains say.

Although the Defense Department has no breakdown of religious preference for the 250,000 troops deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, who include reservists, its Manpower Data Center offers such figures for the 1.4 million active personnel in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.

Nearly half of Americans serving in the armed forces identify themselves as Protestant, and one-fourth as Roman Catholic, according to figures compiled in the last year. Muslims rank a distant third, followed by Jews, Buddhists, Orthodox Christians and Hindus -- each less than 1 percent of the total. At the same time, more than 20 percent stated "no preference" when asked their religion, a number that includes agnostics and humanists but also people who did not want their religion printed on their dog tags.

A summary provided for the Armed Forces Chaplains Board offers these numbers: Protestant, 573,262; Catholic, 313,628; Muslim, 4,158; Jewish, 3,988; Buddhist, 2,519; Orthodox, 1,490; and Hindu, 437.

Vatican Issues Lexicon on Sexuality

In case there's any ambiguity about its views on sexuality and abortion, the Vatican has issued an 867-page lexicon taking a hard look at such issues as homosexuality, safe sex, bioethics, reproductive health, cohabitation, the human embryo, gender, maternity, feminism and euthanasia.

The Italian-language dictionary, released this week by the Vatican Congregation for the Family, eventually will be published worldwide in English and other languages. Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, prefect of the congregation, said the work draws on science and church teaching and is intended to be "a useful instruction for the noble and urgent cause of the family and of life." Above all, it is meant to clarify the terms for use by parliaments and international organizations, such as the United Nations, "when they discuss and legislate on themes of the family and life," he said.

Analysis Suggests Jesus Spoke Greek

Confronted by biblical literalists touting the pure and irrefutable Word of God, liberal voices have been known to shoot back: "The New Testament was written in Greek, but Jesus didn't speak Greek, did he?" Well, maybe he did.

Bernard Brandon Scott, professor of New Testament at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, says scholars typically have assumed that Jesus spoke only Aramaic because it was the language of the day in Palestine.

But recent analyses of biblical texts suggest times where Jesus must have spoken in Greek, such as in Mark when he converses with a Greek woman northwest of Galilee, Scott writes in the current (December 2002) issue of "The Fourth R," a publication of the Westar Institute, founder of the Jesus Seminar. And the discovery of bilingual inscriptions in Greek and Aramaic suggest a mingling of Hellenistic and Jewish cultures. "Aramaic was undoubtedly Jesus's first language, but the circumstantial evidence that he also spoke Greek is very strong," he concludes.


This Month's Spotlight: Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Date: April 29.

Description: Though not a religious holiday, Yom HaShoah increasingly is commemorated at synagogues through memorial observances, dramatic presentations, films and educational programs. This day, typically celebrated one week before Israeli Independence Day, recognizes the millions of Jews who were killed by the Nazis during World War II.

Religion 101

If the Friday before Easter commemorates Jesus's death, why is it called Good Friday?

"Good" is an archaic English word meaning "holy," as in the ancient reference to Christmas as "good tide." Many Christians also consider Jesus's crucifixion "good" because of its intended purpose, the salvation of humanity. Some churches officially recognize the day with different terminology. The Roman Catholic Church, which this year observes the occasion on April 18, refers to it as the "Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord." Eastern Orthodox churches, celebrating it a week later, call it "Great and Holy Friday."

E-mail questions on religious traditions or practice to Include a phone number.

-- Compiled by Bill Broadway

Saturday in Religion: Synagogues expand facilities.