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How to find hope in violent times

A woman cries during a candlelight vigil at San Manuel Stadium for shooting victims of husband and wife terrorists who opened fire on a holiday banquet, killing multiple people, San Bernardino, California, December 3, 2015 (Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)According to this morning's New York Times, the FBI is treating the attack in San Bernardino as a possible terrorism case. Tragically, the massacre in California wasn't the only shooting of the day. A gunman in Savannah, Georgia shot four people early Wednesday, killing a woman and injuring three men. According to The Washington Post, in the U.S. this year there have been 355 mass shootings (defined as a shooting with four or more victims, including the shooter).

We face two competing narratives this morning, each of which will paralyze and polarize us. One mistake is to accept nearly daily shootings as the "new normal." In an age of expanding jihadism, violent video games and media, economic unrest and racial tensions, we should expect to see more violence, we're told. But when something terrible becomes "normal," we accept what we should try as hard as possible to change.

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Critics lambast calls for prayer after mass shooting

House Speaker Paul Ryan holds a moment of silence for the ongoing shooting situation in San Bernardino, California, during the annual U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, December 2, 2015 (Credit: AP Images/CQ Roll Call/Al Drago)Yesterday morning, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, left their six-month-old daughter with Mr. Farook's mother. According to today's New York Times, the couple explained that they had a doctor's appointment. Then they carried out a shooting rampage at the Inland Regional Services in San Bernardino, California. Fourteen were killed, and seventeen more were injured.

At this hour, police are trying to determine the motive for the massacre. Farook worked for the county health department, which was hosting a holiday party at the facility. He attended the party and then stormed away angrily. He and his wife returned wearing masks and vests, and started shooting. They were later killed in a gunfight with police. Farook's brother-in-law told reporters, "I have no idea why he would do something like this. I have absolutely no idea."

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Is Bill Murray our 'secular saint'?

Chicago native actor Bill Murray enters Wrigley Field before Game 3 of the Major League Baseball National League Championship Series game between the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois, October 20, 2015 (Credit: AP Images/Cal Sport Media/Mike Wulf)You may know actor Bill Murray from his role in Ghostbusters, or his work in sixty-two other movies, or his antics on Saturday Night Live. What you don't know Bill Murray for is saintliness. Though one of his sisters is a nun, he is famous for his assertion that "religion is the worst enemy of mankind."

But The New York Times tells us that Murray is now our "secular saint." You can buy Bill Murray T-shirts, coasters and coffee mugs, a "Saint Bill Murray" prayer candle, and even what the Times describes as "a baby mobile with dangling felt dolls representing his movie characters." People are tattooing his face on their arms and calves. Said one fan, "People connect to Bill because he has a charming irreverence."

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Israel seeks to make wine that Jesus drank

Ariel University seeks to recreate biblical era wine (Credit: Ariel University via Facebook)Marawi is a white wine produced by Recanati Winery in Israel. According to The New York Times, it is "crisp" and "acidic." It is also aged 1,800 years, in a manner of speaking.

Israeli researchers are using DNA testing and archaeological research to identify grape seeds indigenous to their region. They found a reference in the Babylonian Talmud that helped them narrow their work further. Now they have created a wine they believe was in use around AD 220. They plan to continue working until they have produced wines that Jesus and King David would have used.

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Church's $700 tip shocks pizza deliveryman

Pizza deliveryman, Jeff Louis, poses for a photo with Ken Wright, pastor of Life Point Church, after the church congregation tipped Louis $700 after a Sunday morning deliverly, Mentor, Ohio, November 22, 2015 (Credit: Life Point Church)Jeff Louis had to go to work early. The pizza deliveryman was called in to take a Sunday morning order to Life Point Church in Mentor, Ohio. He had no idea what would happen when he arrived. Neither did the church.

It started with Pastor Ken Wright, who had an idea: "Let's tip him $100. It's the holiday season." But others in the congregation joined in, giving over $700. Shocked, Louis later made a YouTube video in which he said, "It truly amazes me that people who don't even know me just wanted to help me out that much." The story has now made national headlines.

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