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Google is partnering with the Israel Antiquities Authority to launch the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, an online collection of 5,000 images of scroll fragments. Among the texts is the Book of Deuteronomy, which includes the Ten Commandments, and part of Chapter 1 of the Book of Genesis, which is seen in the picture above and measures in at about 10 cm. Google said the initiative will shed “light on the time when Jesus lived and preached, and on the history of Judaism.” “Millions of users and scholars can discover and decipher details invisible to the naked eye, at 1215 dpi resolution,” Google said in an official blog post. “The site displays infrared and color images that are equal in quality to the Scrolls themselves. There’s a database containing information for about 900 of the manuscripts, as well as interactive content pages. We’re thrilled to have been able to help this project through hosting on Google Storage and App Engine, and use of Maps, YouTube and Google image technology.” // Read more here…

82% of U.S. Evangelical leaders say that their influence on the country is declining, according to a new Religion and Public Life study from the Per Forum. This quote from Rev. S. Douglas Birdsall in the article struck me:
“There was a time when there was a Ten Commandments in every classroom, there were prayers in public places,” he said. “So having gone from that position of considerable influence, even though we might actually have more influence than churches in … other parts of the world, the sense is that it’s slipping from our hands.”
My first thought… when will we stop decrying the lack of the ten commandments and public prayer as the center points of Christians losing influence? The ten commandments on a wall was how we showed our influence? We based our influence on a prayer at a high school graduation? Really? I’ve heard a lot of times from a lot of people how this national has gone to hell in a handbasket since we took prayer out of the schools.  I admit that this pre-dates my schooling years.  But my guess is that much of this country was going to hell in a handbasket when people WERE praying in school, and when the ten commandments were on the classroom wall. Is society bad today?  Absolutely.  Was is pristine in the 50s?  Nope. But there was a whole different set of problems then there there are today.  Some of today’s problems could be worse… but most probably, they’re just different. When I read some of the things that happened in the Old Testament, it makes today’s society look pretty darn Christian. Again from the study:  About half (53 percent ) of U.S. leaders said the state of evangelicalism is worse than it was five years ago, and nearly as many (48 percent) said they expect it to grow worse in the next five years. I’m not quite sure how to read into this.  I guess if our hope to make things better are political solutions to make Christianity more acceptable (like getting prayer back in schools), then we should be depressed about our future. But the scary thing to me is that nearly half of our leaders think it’s going to get worse. The article here does talk about some of the reasons behind the trend; and does do a good job at presenting both sides, including whether or not Christians should try to change culture through politics. It’s a good read. But how about you?  Do you think Christianity’s influence is declining?  If so, why?  And are you optimistic about the future of reaching people for Jesus in the U.S.? Todd

Current Events
My friend Steve Miller writes: This Easter atheist Ricky Gervais asked you to read the Ten Commandments and score your performance.   He states his tally is 10 for 10; not an easy feat you would think for a non-believer, but he does provide some morality based reasons for scoring himself so high. Borrowing a bit from Ghandi’s famous “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians” line of reasoning Gervais goes on to state: “It’s not that I don’t believe that the teachings of Jesus wouldn’t make this a better world if they were followed,” the 49-year-old actor stated. “It’s just that they are rarely followed.” Gervais’ original message (includes some f-bombs, thankfully being a good Christian apparently has nothing to do with strong language usage): Why I’m A Good Christian by Ricky Gervais Christian Post’s response article by Eryn Sun: Atheist Ricky Gervais – A Better Christian than Christians? What do you think?  Would you score Ricky this highly?  How would you score yourself?