With the Publicans at Hooters

Hooters restaurants are famous for several things, Bible study not among them.

That didn't stop a Christian singles group from meeting at a Hooters in Kennesaw, Ga., just south of Atlanta. Every Wednesday night, a dozen or so young adults order up sodas and chicken wings and discuss biblical perspectives on relationships, sex and other matters.

Occasionally, a waitress in a white tank top and orange hot pants stops to take part.

"We're about reaching the lost, and I think we're called to do that," Rick Lamborn, leader of Christian Focus Atlanta, a nondenominational group, told the Associated Press. "Our attitude is to go where the un-churched and the de-churched are."

Some Christians don't think meeting people where they are should include visits to a sexually themed business. "Question is: Can the place where you're meeting . . . enhance what you're trying to accomplish, or does it distract?" said Terry Erickson, director of evangelism for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a national campus ministry organization.

"I think someone who comes to Hooters is looking for something else."

A Lively Debate About Scrolls

A simmering debate over the Dead Sea Scrolls escalated last month when two Israeli archaeologists determined that the scrolls were not written at Qumran, where 1,000 ancient texts were discovered more than a half-century ago.

Yuval Peleg, one of the archaeologists, said coins, pottery and other artifacts unearthed over a 10-year period at Qumran suggest an affluent lifestyle, not the austerity associated with the Essenes, a Jewish sect with possible links to early Christianity. That finding supports a disputed theory that the settlement's residents were refugees from Jerusalem, who in A.D. 70 escaped the Roman attack on the city and hid the scrolls in caves.

Traditionalists countered with their own archaeological evidence, including inkwells and writing materials found at the ancient site. But the new evidence could have others questioning the "Qumran myth."

"The old consensus is not valid anymore," Yizhar Hirschfel, professor of classical archaeology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, told the Associated Press.

A Hospital Gown for All Cultures

A conflict of cultures has caused the Maine Medical Center in Portland to redesign its hospital gown. Administrators decided to act after the hospital identified a high no-show rate for Muslim women from African countries, particularly Somalia.

Contacted at home, the women described the horror of being asked to wear the revealing gowns during outpatient procedures and while waiting in a hallway outside the radiology department. Islam teaches modesty in dress, and the women said the gowns went against their religious and cultural beliefs.

The old "johnny," as the gown is known, leaves a patient's backside and legs exposed. The new garment fully covers patients.

Answers to Biblical Questions

If you have ever wondered what things God hates, how many names Satan has or which animals are mentioned most often in the Bible, you'll learn the answers in "Find It in the Bible," a book of 51 lists for the scripturally curious.

Bob Phillips, a marriage, family and child counselor with more than 70 books to his credit, lists and cites verses with 31 things God hates. They include "a lying tongue" and "those who love violence"; 18 names for Satan, including "accuser" and "red dragon"; and 25 animals in "God's special zoo," including frogs, talking donkeys, lions and vipers.

He concludes with 101 Bible-based jokes in question-and-answer format. Example:

Q: Where does it talk about Honda cars in the Bible?

A: In Acts 1:14. "These all continued with one accord."

Celebration

This month's spotlight: Isra wal-Meraj, the night journey and ascension of the Prophet Muhammad.

Date: Sept. 12, beginning at sundown the night before.

Description: In 620, according to Muslim tradition, the angel Gabriel swept Muhammad up on a winged steed and took him on a night journey from Medina to Jerusalem. From the Dome of the Rock, Muhammad rode back and forth between the heavens, meeting with Moses, Abraham, Jesus and other prophets before ascending to the final level, Seventh Heaven, where he spoke with Allah and received the commandment to pray five times daily. For Muslims, Isra wal-Meraj confirmed Muhammad's role as God's final messenger.

More information: www.noblesanctuary.com/miraj.html

Religion 101

What is syncretism?

Syncretism is the mixing of elements of different religions, such as the assimilation of Greek gods by Roman culture, the melding of Shinto and Buddhist belief in Japan and the merging of voodoo and Christian practices in the Caribbean. Recently, the word has been used pejoratively to refer to interfaith events at which clergy of different religions offer prayers. To some churches, clergy members who pray at such events are guilty of heresy.

Have a question on religious traditions or practices? Send an e-mail to religion@washpost.com.

-- Compiled by Bill Broadway

Saturday in Religion: Communion controversies.