Mark E. Rondeau

The Hobby Lobby decision, which is still generating heated commentary, interrupted my plan last week to write about Ramadan, which began the evening of Saturday, June 28, and ends the evening of Monday, July 28. Here’s some belated information about the holiday.

"Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is the holiest time of the year for Muslims. Muslims worldwide fast from the break of dawn to sunset, abstaining from food, drink and other sensual pleasures to complete one of the five pillars of Islam and to achieve greater self-discipline, self-purification and compassion for those less fortunate," explains. "American Muslims: A Journalist’s Guide to Understanding Islam."

It adds, "Eid al-Fitr (Festival of the Fast Breaking) is the celebration that comes at the end of Ramadan. It is a day of great joy and gratitude as Muslims complete their obligations of fasting," from

NOTED WITH INTEREST: I see that Rabbi Deborah Waxman, a leader of the Reconstructionist Movement of Judaism, will be visiting Congregation Beth Israel on Tuesday, July 22. (See religion news in brief). I hope to write more about this in upcoming papers.

TIDBITS: With the big showdown World Cup final match on Sunday between Argentina and Germany, there have been several Catholic Facebook memes jokingly pitting current Pope Francis, an Argentinean, against emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, a German.


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My favorite shows the two popes praying together, with the caption "Heavenly Father, Please stop listening to his World Cup prayers. Amen."

* A filmmaker named Richard Rossi "is on a crusade of sorts" collecting stories about "the fabled healing powers of baseball great Roberto Clemente." The goal is no less than to make Clemente and officially canonized Catholic saint, according to a June 28 article by Heather Adams of Religion News Service. Clemente, who collected 3,000 hits while playing rightfield for the Pittsburgh Pirates, died in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972 while trying to bring supplies from Puerto Rico to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

* A 52-year-old man accused of punching another man and hitting him with his car in a dispute over pew space in Utah has been ordered to spend 30 days in jail. The Salt Lake Tribune reports Wayne Dodge was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge. He was also ordered to complete an anger management class and pay a fine. Weber County deputies say the fight happened last June at a Mormon meetinghouse during a crowded service that included a baby blessing and a missionary farewell. Authorities say Dodge sat in a section that another family had saved in hopes of getting a good view of the baby blessing.

Dodge is accused of punching the man after the service, and striking him with his vehicle in the parking lot.

* An Alabama pastor says he’s shutting down his refuge for convicted sex offenders because of a new law, according to the Associated Press. Ricky Martin says he doesn’t like having to move men out of campers beside his church in rural Chilton County but he has no choice. Legislators passed a law earlier this year prohibiting convicted sex offenders from living within 300 feet of each other on the same property. It takes effect Tuesday. Prosecutor C.J. Robinson says he wrote the bill because of complaints and concerns over the large number of registered sex offenders on Martin’s property. Robinson says more than 50 men have lived at the camp since 2010. Martin says he’s committed to following the Bible’s commands to care for the outcast.

* Albuquerque, New Mexico, authorities say, among the more than a dozen citations for illegal fireworks handed out July 4th, one was given to a group of Buddhist monks, according to the Associated Press. Albuquerque Fire Department inspector Darrick Pino said the citation was written after authorities stumbled upon an audience watching a fireworks show from the Hoi Phuoc Buddhist Temple. The monks were setting off a treasure trove of illegal fireworks, including Roman candles and mortars, Pino said.

Albuquerque was under fireworks restrictions due to high fire danger. A woman with the temple told authorities the monks don’t watch TV, listen to the radio or read newspapers. She said the monks didn’t know there was a fireworks ban. "It’s still your responsibility to know the laws of the land," Pino said. The citations can carry a fine of up to $500 or 90 days in jail.

RETHINKING HELL: As word has gotten out far and wide over the years that I handle the Banner’s religion coverage, I get lots of religion-related emails. One I got recently is for the Rethinking Hell Conference 2014, presented by Rethinking Hell, a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation in Rogers, Arkansas. This organization’s website is http://www.rethinkinghell.com.

The inaugural conference at Houston’s Lanier Theological Library is being held now -- July 11 and 12 -- and is billed as featuring "opposing views by leading theologians and researchers from six countries."

The release adds, " The first time conference features noted speakers from over six countries on three continents, who are theologians, researchers and authors who represent a wide range of positions on the biblical doctrine of hell, which impact the daily lives of Christian believers. Evangelical speakers and panelists will present papers, give lectures and participate in panel discussions before the participating audience."

Though this is a conference of evangelicals I noticed that the lineup does not include evangelical pastor and author Rob Bell, whose 2012 book "Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived" created a lot of controversy. One quote from Bell I like is: "What we believe about heaven and hell is incredibly important because it exposes what we believe about who God is and what God is like."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "In the twilight of life, God will not judge us on our earthly possessions and human success, but rather on how much we have loved." ~ St. John of the Cross

Mark E. Rondeau is the Banner’s Religion Editor. He can be reached by email at mrondeau@benningtonbanner.com. Twitter: @banner_religion