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Obama attorneys will defend cross atop California memorial

People gather in the late evening sun around the massive cross sitting atop the Mt. Soledad War Memorial in La Jolla, California on December 12, 2013 (Credit: Reuters/Sandy Huffaker) The Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego, California was constructed in 1954 to honor Korean War veterans.  The large cross atop the memorial has been the subject of controversy for 25 years.  Critics claim that it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, prohibiting the government from preferring one religion over another.  Now the Justice Department has surprised some observers by serving notice that it will defend the cross as "an appropriate memorial to our nation's veterans."

The cross has been controversial for 20 centuries.  What actually happened on this Good Friday at a place called Golgotha?  Consider the first-century non-biblical records.  We know from Roman historian Tacitus that "Christus . . . suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus" (Annals XV.44).  We know from Jewish historian Josephus how he died: "Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross" (Antiquities 18.3.3).

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Atheists and Pope Francis: Following in Jesus' footsteps?

National Ask an Atheist Day at Penn State University, 2013 (Credit: Secular Student Alliance via Facebook) Tonight, Pope Francis will visit a home for the elderly and disabled in Rome.  There he will wash the feet of residents, all of whom are lay people.  Women and non-Christians may be in the group.  However, not everyone applauds the pope's inclusivism, claiming that priests are required by Church law to wash only the feet of 12 men.  The pope doesn't seem to care.  According to a Vatican spokesman, such rules can be a distraction from "the profound messages of the Gospels and of the Lord of the Church."

I wonder what Pope Francis would think about the fact that today is "National Ask an Atheist Day."  Organizers hope to provide "an opportunity for the general public—particularly people of faith—to approach us and ask questions about secular life."  Ironically—or providentially—the annual event falls this year on Maundy Thursday.

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Was Jesus married?

Gospel of Jesus wife written in Coptic on small papyrus fragment held by professor Karen L. King of Harvard (Credit: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary) An ancient papyrus fragment is creating quite a stir these days.  It was first made public two years ago by historian Karen L. King of Harvard University.  When, where, or how the fragment was discovered is unknown.  The owner insists on remaining anonymous.

It is only four by eight centimeters, smaller than a business card, comprised of eight lines written in black ink.  The fragment is clearly torn out of a larger document.  It was written in Coptic, an Egyptian language using Greek letters.  While some remain convinced that it is a recent forgery, analysts now report that it resembles other ancient papyri from the fourth to the eight centuries and is likely that old.

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Boston bombing: dancer is a 'survivor ' not a 'victim'

Adrianne Haslet-Davis, center, wipes away a tear while standing on stage with MIT professor Hugh Herr, left, and dancer Christian Lightner, at the 2014 TED Conference, Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Haslet-Davis took to the stage to perform for the first time since losing part of her left leg in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Herr designed the bionic leg specifically for dancing after visiting Haslet-Davis in the hospital (AP Photo/TED 2014 Conference, James Duncan Davidson via Flickr) Adrianne Haslet-Davis lost her left foot in the bombings that devastated Boston a year ago.  The dancer has continued with her career, and plans to appear on ABC's "Dancing With The Stars."  She will run the last mile of next week's marathon, flanked by her twin brothers.

Since last year's attacks, Haslet-Davis has become a public advocate for those affected by the attacks, asking that people refer to them as "survivors" rather than "victims."  She is right: "victims" connotes a sense of powerlessness, while "survivors" withstand their ordeal and often become stronger as a result.

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Don't invite a friend to church for Easter

First Baptist Church of Chesapeake school bus used as part of their bus ministry to bring visitors and other church goers to church (Credit: First Baptist Church of Chesapeake) One in five Americans hasn't yet decided if they will attend church services this Easter.  According to a recent survey, 41 percent say they are planning to attend, while 39 percent say they definitely will avoid church this Sunday.  But 20 percent are undecided.

There are 314 million people living in the United States.  Twenty percent is 62.8 million people.  Many in this demographic are far less religious than most who will read today's Cultural Commentary.  It would seem obvious that we should invite them to church for Resurrection Sunday.

Here's what works even better: bring someone with you.

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