Fashion-Conscious Bible Readers

If you're embarrassed to tote around that ugly graduation Bible with your new spring outfit, help is here. Now you can accessorize with colorfully bound Scripture made for the fashion-conscious.

"From Flamingo Fuchsia to Gator Green to Sandcastle Sunset, Christians who are reluctant to carry their same Bibles now have a choice in reflecting their own personal tastes and styles of the bestselling book in the world," chirps a press release from mega-publisher Thomas Nelson.

Nelson's summer line for 2005 offers compact and gift-size Bibles in 16 colors and a variety of geometric and reflective cover designs. Each retails for $19.99.

And don't worry about that Tidal Wave Blue text not matching the burnt orange suit you plan to add to your wardrobe this fall. In August, Nelson will introduce a fall line in such trendy colors as Black Onyx, Smokey Quartz and Goldenrod Quill.

Taking Cues From Pop Culture

Is culture infused with religion or religion infused with culture? The emergence of Bible couture brings that question to mind, but so does the tendency for Christian academics and pastors to use popular television shows and films to preach the Gospel.

Take "Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters" by Dick Staub, syndicated broadcaster and director of the Center for Faith and Culture at Seattle Pacific University.

In this 310-page book, published a few weeks before the release of "Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith," Staub argues that today's youth lack Christian mentors on the level of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda to show how ancient Christian beliefs and practices are relevant to their lives.

He then assumes the role of mentor, using Star Wars characters and themes to instruct youth in the ways of Christianity. There is a Force, but Jesus is Lord over the Force, Staub says. And Christian youth act as Jedi warriors through whose faith and perseverance good will prevail over evil.

Amish Mental Health Care

Best known for avoiding such modern conveniences as electricity and automobiles, the Amish often shun medical care outside their tight-knit communities, especially psychiatric care, according to mental health officials. Amish fear that their faith will be viewed as a cause of mental illness and that they will be pressured to abandon it.

To ease that concern, some private companies are opening psychiatric centers near Amish communities, where outpatients can live in familiar surroundings -- without such modern distractions as radio and television. One such facility, a two-story house called Green Pastures, will open next month in Mount Gretna, Pa., and can accommodate 15 residents, the Associated Press reported.

Patients will be assured that abandoning their faith is not part of the treatment, said Charles G. Bauman, an official with Philhaven Behavioral Healthcare Services, a Mennonite-affiliated company that will run the center. "This will build a bridge between the professional [mental-health] services and their culture," he said.

Americans and the Holocaust

Americans strongly support remembrance of and education about the atrocities of Holocaust but tend to lack factual knowledge, a survey reports.

The international survey, "Thinking About the Holocaust 60 Years Later," was conducted in March and April by the Paris-based polling firm TNS Sofres and released last month in Washington at the annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee, which commissioned the survey.

Eighty percent of the 1,005 Americans interviewed said they support remembrance initiatives about the Holocaust. But fewer than half, 44 percent, correctly identified Auschwitz, Dachau and Treblinka as concentration camps. Among the Europeans surveyed, 91 percent of Swedes, 88 percent of Austrians, 79 percent of Poles, 78 percent of French, 77 percent of Germans and 53 percent of British correctly identified the death camps.

Celebration

This month's spotlight: Litha, midsummer Wiccan festival.

Date: June 21 (begins sundown June 20, Midsummer's Eve).

Description: Litha is one of four "lesser Sabbats," or witches' holidays, in the Pagan Celtic calendar, along with the winter solstice and vernal and autumnal equinoxes. Litha marks the summer solstice, which in ancient times came midway between the beginning of summer, on May Day, and the end of summer, on Aug. 1. Many Pagans depict the solstice shift from increasing to decreasing daylight as a battle between the Oak King (another name for John the Baptist, whose feast is June 24) and his twin, the Holly King, who dies at the winter solstice.

More information: www.akashanpathways.com

Religion 101

What does "amen" mean?

Amen is a Hebrew word that means affirmation or truth. In the Hebrew Bible, it is used to bind people to oaths and to express communal agreement with religious pronouncements: "Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image. . . . And all the people shall say Amen" (Deuteronomy 27:15, King James Version). In the New Testament, the word often translates as "verily," as in this statement by Jesus: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was made, I am" (John 8:58). Its use to conclude prayers is probably related to a Jewish law that requires anyone who hears another person recite a blessing to respond with "amen."

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

-- Compiled by Bill Broadway