When the big news story is the death of Osama Bin Laden and the first chance to preach on this is Mother's Day, what's a preacher to do? A rabbi, an imam and a minister talk about how to integrate the news of the day into the propers for the week.
When the big news story is the death of Osama Bin Laden and the first chance to preach on this is Mother's Day, what's a preacher to do? A rabbi, an imam and a minister talk about how to integrate the news of the day into the propers for the week.
No doubt you have heard that a radio preacher named Harold Camping has predicted that the rapture will occur at 6 pm PDT on May 21, 2011. There are billboards, web-sites, and people handing out flyers. Many news outlets have picked this up.
A New Jersey priest gets hate mail for having an interfaith worship service with Muslims in his church.
On a July Fourth weekend, a slice of Christian Americana: the cowboy church is a new-old institution that seems to be roping its fair share of believers.
I went to New York to watch the taping of a talk show. You know, those clapping, cheering people in the studio audience. I was in one of those. But this was not just any talk show. This show is hosted by an Episcopal priest named Father Albert Cutié. Father Albert is airing on Fox-owned stations this summer.
Pastor Joe Nelms delivers prayer at Nascar Nationwide - Nashville, TN.
People tend to become less religious as they become more educated, right? Not necessarily, according to a new study.
After Sojourners rejected an offer to purchase ad space on its web site during Mother's Day by the Believe Out Loud campaign, many blogs (including the Café) pointed out the inconsistency of the notion that an organization labeling itself as both progressive and Christian would not participate in a simple campaign to raise awareness of the need for gracious hospitality for all in our churches, especially in this case members of the LGBT community.
A tip of the hat to Andrew Sullivan for directing us to this lovely passage from a recent essay by Tony Woodlief at Image Journal:
Think Progress reports that $42 million from seven foundations are fueling the rise of Islamophobia in the U.S. Some of the names will be familiar to The Episcopal Church as those who funded the Anglican right wing, the Richard Scaife Foundation ($7,875,000 and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation ($5,370,000).
At Duke Divinity's Call and Response Blog, Presbyterian minister Carol Howard Merritt notes five changes in our culture that every congregation should pay attention to.
It's not a new list, but it is a good summary of what is going on.
Those of us at Episcopal Cafe were among the many to react to the news that Steve Jobs died last night. We included the heartfelt statement found on Apple.com's website.
There was a time when people turned to the Bible--Pharoah or Judas Iscariot-- or more locally specific figures--like King George III or Abraham Lincoln--in their search for a universally understood symbol of evil.
Brian Palmer at Slate wonders how people shorthanded their discussion of evil before there was a Hitler:
A photo of a poster in the window at Nordstrom. Thanks Nordstrom for hopefully starting a new trend. What do you think about "decking the halls" before Halloween?
There is an explosion in religiously-oriented apps. The Book Bench blog at the New Yorker says that scripture and religious apps are downloaded more often than Angry Birds.
The New York Times' Mark Oppenheimer reviews the revival of the musical, Godspell:
Reuters has posted reflections on the Interfaith Occupy Wall Street service in Zuccotti Park, written by Katherine Clark:
Does Santa Claus innoculate children from religion? Can the cultural myth and the Gospel message co-exist in a way that makes sense?
The Christian Century publishes an RNS story that describes how various Christian traditions wrestle with Santa.
¡Hoy se celebre la Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe! Recibe las beniciones de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.
Today is the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe:
The Rev. Daniel Simons, Priest for Liturgy, Hospitality & Pilgrimage of Trinity Wall Street, writes on his blog on the occasion of the three-month mark of the Occupy Wall Street movement from a perspective of "close proximity":
The Nativity Factor is a short film competition, asking entrants to tell the story of the Nativity in their own unique way. The entires were shown on You Tube, ranging from 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
The contests winners were announced yesterday.
This was one of my favorites:
The Rev. Winnie Varghese is priest-in-charge at St. Mark’s-Church-in-the-Bowery in New York City and she asks the question "why are so many faithful Christians homophobes?"
In The Christian Science Monitor, author Courtney E. Martin notes a distinct paradox that, for her at least, doesn't really demand resolution.
Hell didn't win, but it had a "good year", according to Barbara Bradley Hagerty on NPR's All Things Considered.
This weekend, the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, appears on the American Public Media radio program On Being with the Dali Lama, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Muslim scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and host Krista Tippet. The discussion originally took place on the Interfaith Summit on Happiness at Emory University in Atlanta on October 17, 2010.
The discussion is being broadcast this weekend for the new year. --see below
Steve McSwain, a former Baptist minister, part time Episcopalian and who now speaks on behalf of the spiritual but not religious, says that if the church doesn't snap out of it's collective insanity it cannot communicate the hope it has to offer the world.
Here are five things he says drive spiritual people away from religion.
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth Jr. Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, is a remarkable presence in his conversation with a Cleveland "shock jock" about the saying "God loves you. No exceptions."
Being single throughout adulthood is more and more common and less stigmatized but many people--as well as workplaces and the church--don't get that it is possible to be single and never want to get married or have children.
A video making the rounds talks about how Jesus came to abolish religion. He says that is possible to love Jesus but hate religion.
Liel Leibovitz writes in the Tablet why George Lucas' new film Red Tails is forcing him to look at the original Star Wars trilogy in a new light, reflecting on the difference between faith and myth.
The New York Times reports on Anna Deavere Smith, the first artist in residence at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.
According to The Telegraph, Giles Fraser "played a blinder" on Richard Dawkins in their debate this week:
Andrew Sullivan, writing in the Daily Beast, says that Christianity is in crisis. What he says is nothing new and neither is his prescription. But that does not mean it is not radical. His solution: stop propping up the church and go back to Jesus.
The Crisis of Our Time
Nicholas Kristoff, writing in the Sunday New York Times Week in Review, notices a new brand of atheist, ones who are skeptical but respect the role and achievement of religion in human culture
Go ahead, say it. "May the Fourth be with you."
Matthew Cresswell at the Guardian looks at some of the religious expressions that have sprung up using the images and language of the Jedi from the Star Wars saga.
The Rev. Chuck Currie calls for a new progressive ecumenical church relationship.
David Gibson at Religion News Service notices that in America, the Golden Rule--treating others as you wish to be treated--is still at the heart of popular (and political) American religious thought.
LifeWay Christian Resources - a product of the Southern Baptist Convention - recently polled 2,144 Americans using an online instrument. They were asked, "Do you believe homosexuality is a sin?"
Rhonda Mawhood Lee draws from memories of growing up in Montreal, a world of two languages, to reflect on the power of Pentecost:
The Rt Rev. Carol Gallagher writes A New Winter Count from the Niobrara Convocation.
CNN Belief Blog looks at the hateful. anti-gay rhetoric that come from the pulpits of some American Protestant churches and the discomfort this causes both gay activists and conservative Christians.
Harvard Magazine reports on an analysis of the rising national trend of having babies before or without marriage.
Liberal Christianity would appear to be on the ropes, judging from declining membership numbers in the Episcopal Church and other increasingly progressive denominations. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat describes the Episcopal Church as "flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes." He posits:
The Rev. John Ohmer, rector of St. James' Episcopal Church in Leesburg, Va., respectfully and deftly takes issue with key assertions made in Ross Douthat's New York Times column, Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?. He also agrees with Douthat on certain points:
The Atlantic explores the intersection of faith and science as we explore space, wondering, "Our secular endeavor of space exploration is flush with religious observance. Why is that?"
The Communications Update from the Church of England encourages members to share their stories of the church and the Olympics as the games begin. Episcopal Café has one to share by Margaret Treadwell in Daily Episcopalian today.
The newly selected dean of Washington National Cathedral, the Rev. Canon Gary Hall, believes that mainline churches face "a crisis of credibility." He writes in the Washington Post:
Matthew Paul Turner blogs that the church failed in five ways when so many Christians showed up at their local Chick-fil-A on Wednesday.
One: It may not have been hate, but it sure did not look like love.
Two: "People felt hate and we ignored that."
Three: "By rallying behind CFA, Christians put an issue above people."
Four: "Once again, the mass actions of Christians built another wall of distrust between the Church and the GLBTQ communities."
The Olympic Games opening ceremonies celebrated workers' rights and the dignity of human labor in a deeply spiritual way according to a report from Ekklesia:
The recent shooting in the Sikh temple in Wisconsin has focused the media on a genre of American music that promotes hate and violence.
The Alban Institute has an article by David Edman Gray on our seemingly never ending struggle to balance "work" and "life":
Christians can be remarkably mean-spirited, notes the Rev. Kimberly Hyatt of Jacksonville, Fl., blogging at patheos.com:
Bishop Kirk Smith of Arizona ponders the eagerness with which we tend to share the extravagance of our lives via social media. Describing what he calls "Facebook bragging," he notes that Christians, especially those who are ordained, are not doing the church or themselves any favors by posting photos of luxury travel, expensive meals, and parties among a "huge number of happy, wine-drinking friends" for all their Facebook followers to see and envy.
There's good news and bad news: if you get married in an Anglican Church in the Diocese of Sydney, Australia, the bride no longer has to promise that she will "obey" her husband. Instead, she has the option of "submitting" to him.
In the film Hellbound?, writer/director Kevin Miller asks why it is so important for some people to believe that God will consign evil-doers to an eternal, conscious hell and for others to believe that God will eventually welcome everyone into heaven.
Derek Penwell, at [D]mergent writes on the emerging generations and what he calls the "Jesus gap" - the disconnect between Jesus a generally portrayed in US culture and Jesus of the Gospels:
Andrew Brown, in The Guardian, looks at the bigger picture when parents refuse medical treatment for their children and the children die. Although Brown is referring to African spirituality - this is common to many spiritual traditions in the US and elsewhere.:
Faith in the Five Boroughs documents the variety of faiths and their expressions in New York City. Videos explore the diversity.
DC Comics has introduced a new super hero according to Religion News Service:
Literary journalist Daniel Swift has a new book coming out next month, "Shakespeare's Common Prayers: The Book of Common Prayer and the Elizabethan Age." In a column at the Huffington Post this week, he writes, "The Book of Common Prayer is one of the hidden ingredients of Shakespeare's plays: it is a skeleton beneath the skin of the best-known literary works of our or any time."
The Rev. Paul Gordon Chandler is interviewed from Cairo by Episcopal News Service:
I've just finished reading Fr. James Martin's lively memoir "My Life with the Saints," and found this video compelling. Happy Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi!
What do young people have to say in response to the recent Pew poll showing that religious affiliation is in sharp decline in the United States, particularly among their age group?
The New York Times asked readers 13 and younger to respond to this today at its Student Opinion blog, and drew strong reactions from young people, most of whom echo the report's findings. One wrote:
The Rt. Rev. Russell Jacobus has announced that there will be no blessings from the church for gay and lesbian couples in the Diocese of Fond du Lac (Wisconsin), reported in the PostCrescent.com:
With great insight and creativity, Dr. Matthew Sleeth writes on the importance of rest:
When the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meet in Baltimore next week (Nov. 12-15), they will talk about how to cope with the re-election of a president against whom many bishops actively campaigned against, but will they notice the, ahem, elephant in the room?
Popular Catholic writer James Martin, SJ, posts a link on his Facebook page today to a story about a teenager in Minnesota who was denied confirmation for expressing support on his Facebook page for same-sex marriage. (To his credit, Fr. Martin describes this as "deeply disturbing," leading me to wonder what sanctions he might face eventually for his own Facebook activity.) From Inforum of Fargo and Moorhead:
Pew Forum reports on the religious composition of the 113th Congress:
J. Mary Luti, retired seminary professor and United Church of Christ pastor writing at her blog, Sicut Loutus Est on the current trend of religious leaders shaming people for their excitement about Christmas during Advent:
Time is perceived in many ways depending on one's culture. How might this concept affect how we do church? Professor Philip Zimbardo conveys how our individual perspectives of time affect our work, health and well-being. Time influences who we are as a person, how we view relationships and how we act in the world.
An exhibit of the religious art of Louis C. Tiffany gives a glimpse into an era when houses of worship were built in growing cities.
Six in 10 Americans, including a number of Christians, believe that climate change is actually impacting the weather, according to a new survey. But many, many others are of the opinion that severe weather is a sign that we're smack in the middle of biblical end times. According to a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service:
Now that your parish is on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Yelp, should you add Pinterest to your evangelism mix as well? Or have you already? Consider these tips for parishes from Kingswood Communications:
The New York Times reports today that "religious leaders across the country this week vowed to mobilize their congregants to push for gun control legislation and provide the ground support for politicians willing to take on the gun lobby, saying the time has come for action beyond praying and comforting the families of those killed." According to the Times:
Maureen Dowd of the New York Times hands her column over to Father Kevin O'Neil:
Religion and Ethics Newsweekly asked the Rev. Ian Markham, dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary, "to ponder religious and spiritual themes in the series, from the invisibility of God to the relationship between faith and a rapidly changing social order:"
This week, NPR's Morning Edition has been explores the "nones" — Americans who say they don't identify with any religion.
This echoes the Episcopal Cafe post "None" but not "atheist" from this past weekend.
The New York Times introduces is latest "Room for Debate" segment, asking "Is Atheism a Religion?"
On this Ash Wednesday, are you not yet sure just how you will observe a holy Lent? As you sip the day's first cup of coffee (dang, I was going to give that up!) check out the Fast-Pray-Give Lenten calendar at bustedhalo.com to guide you through the season (and put you in the running to win an Apple iPad mini, honest to God.) From the Web site:
According to Yahoo Finance News, the founder of eHarmony says that their stance against marriage equality has damaged the company:
Thom S. Rainer suggests that unlike baby boomers, the millennial generation tends to prefer small to big. Witness the decline of the shopping mall in recent decades. What does this suggest for spacious, sprawling, traditional worship space? What does it mean for large congregations, which are usually most successful if they can encourage small-group development? He writes:
The best moment of Seth MacFarlane's Oscars hosting gig may have come late in the night when, in announcing Meryl Streep, he said "our next presenter needs no introduction" ... and then just walked away.
If only he'd kept his mouth shut more frequently.
But then William Shatner was beamed in for a Family Guy-esque experiment in the meta. Captain Kirk had come from the future to reveal that the headlines the next day would proclaim MacFarlane the worst Oscar host ever, unless he changed his routine. Cut to a clip—from the future, see—of MacFarlane performing "We Saw Your Boobs," during which he essentially read off a Mr. Skin database of shirtless-actress appearances over time. The bit could have been a hilarious acknowledgement of MacFarlane's past idiocies—if it had been, like, five seconds long. But no: We got a full minute-plus of breast chronicling, followed by MacFarlane's definition-of-homophobic insistence to Shatner that he wasn't a member of the gay men's chorus he'd just sang with.
From there, the jokes just got more and more... well, what's the word? Calling them offensive gives them too much power, which isn't to say that black people shouldn't have felt uncomfortable about MacFarlane pretending to mix up Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy, or that half the population needn't have squirmed when MacFarlane called Zero Dark Thirty's plotline an example of "a woman's innate ability to never let anything go." What the jokes were, really, was stupid, boring, and empty: humor that relied less on its own patently sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. content than on admiration for or disgust with the host's willingness to deliver it. So much of comedy is about the shock of recognition, of seeing some previously unacknowledged truth suddenly acknowledged, but the only recognition MacFarlane offered was that some people say dumb things about other peoples' gender/racial/sexual identities. Which, of course, should not be shocking at all.
It shouldn't be hard to come up with a sensible position on this. Everything, including punchlines about the Jews cutting non-Jews out of Hollywood, snickers about women faking the flu to lose weight, and cracks that there's no need to try to understand what Salma Hayek's saying because she's so hot, is "OK." It's a free country, etc. But that doesn't mean those jokes aren't hurtful, obvious, or dumb. It doesn't mean they don't make the world a worse place. Humor, after all, can be an incredible weapon for social progress, but it can also be regressive: The more we pass off old stereotypes, rooted in hate, as normal—as MacFarlane did again and again last night—the longer those stereotypes, and their ability to harm people, will be in place. If only Captain Kirk had told us whether we'll have moved past this nonsense by the 23rd century.
Did you watch? What did you think? Should the church speak up?
I was amused by Christoph Waltz's portrayal of Pope Benedict a couple weeks ago on Saturday Night Live, but I couldn't watch more than a few seconds of his "Djesus Uncrossed" sketch the same night. I thought it was jarring and gross. That said, the Tarantino spoof kicked off a storm of controversy, and no small measure of certifiably thoughtful theological reflection. Cafe newsblogger Kurt Wiesner summed it up on his blog:
After a couple days of black smoke, those anxiously waiting outside the Sistine Chapel finally saw what they were waiting for: white smoke...the confirmation of a new pope.
During the day, many also saw pink smoke:
The LA Times reports that UC Riverside philosophy professor John Martin Fischer recieved a $5-million Templeton grant to study immortality "in this world or another — and whether everlasting might just prove to be ever-boring."
Bishop Gene Robinson writes on this Good Friday at the Washington Post's On Faith blog:
If he didn't know it before, the Rev. Stephen Fichter found out that sports were a big deal in his community when a family told him they not be attending his Catholic parish from Good Friday through Easter Sunday to attend their child’s volleyball tournament. So he decided to study the phenomenon.
Christian Wiman, the editor of Poetry magazine and a poet himself, writes about his faith and his illness in “My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer.”
Dwight Garner reviews the book in the New York Times:
In the 1960s, about 20 percent of married couples were in interfaith unions; now 45% of married couples are likely to be of different religions. Many of the obvious questions, such as how to raise the children and how to celebrate holidays are frequently not discussed by the couples before their marriages.
A recent poll about how many Americans believe in various classic conspiracy theories caused Diarmaid MacCulloch ask "If Obama isn't the anti-Christ, who is?"
The Rt. Rev. Edward J. Konieczny, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, also brings his wisdom as a former police officer to the current gun debate in the latest CNN Belief Blog:
Darriel Harris tells his story of hearing stories in The Episcopal Church of Sudan in Duke Divinity's Faith & Leadership:
The lecture-style sermon, delivered every Sunday. File under "We've always done it that way." But in the information age, has the sermon outlived its usefulness? David Murrow writes at patheos.com:
When the sad news broke that Matthew Warren, 27, the youngest son of Pastor Rich Warren committed suicide, people began to immediately assign meaning to his death. Some of it was ugly and some of it compassionate.
While this process happens in every family when tragedy strikes, when it happens to the family of a public figure it automatically causes us to look at the "big" issues.
The Senate is scheduled today to vote on gun control.
The Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral, wrote a powerful op-ed for today's Huffington Post:
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss are stars of a new feature-length documentary that slams religion and touts science, as if never the twain shall meet. "Science is wonderful. Science is beautiful," Dawkins says. "Religion is not wonderful. Religion is not beautiful."
Bob Faw, for PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly features New York University president John Sexton, who teaches a class at NYU connecting baseball and spirituality:
Søren Kierkegaard's 200th birthday is May 5th. Jeffery Frank says that his greatest contribution may not be his forays in to existentialism or his "leap of faith" but how we communicate today.
Frank Bruni writing in the New York Times wonders if the ban on gay scout leaders
isn’t as much of an insult to religions who support full inclusion as the ban’s end would be to Perkins, Perry and their kind?
Emily Timbol, writing at Huffington Post, says that being hated by the world should not be a point of pride for Christians:
Despite protests from Catholic bishops, an American-based group, Catholics for Choice (CFC), is refusing to back down on running advertisements in Kenya supporting condom use to battle the spread of HIV/AIDS.
A wide majority of Americans support the Boy Scouts of America’s proposal to admit gay scouts for the first time, and most oppose the organization’s plans to continue to bar gay adults from serving as scout leaders, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The Rev. Malcolm Boyd is featured in the Christian Science Monitor as the priest who brought Christianity into the streets to promote civil rights:
Birthrates in most countries around the world are falling according to the Washington Post. The reason seems to be access to television and other media:
Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton suggest that there are real benefits to rituals, religious or otherwise, in Scientific American:
Moyers and Company explore how story can shape advocacy and public life. Marshall Ganz reflects:
Journalist Naomi Schaefer Riley criss-crossed the country asking about what it is like for married couples of different faiths and describes what she found in a new book ’Til Faith Do Us Part.”
Gustav Niebuhr reviews the book in the New York Times:
Maria Popova at Brainpickings discusses Eric Klinenberg's book, Going Solo: the extraordinary rise and surprising appeal of living along.
George Schmidt discusses the moral universe of the Game of Thrones HBO series at Religion Dispatches:
Ira Glass, the non-believing child of secular Jews does his tribe proud by volunteering the opinion that Christians get a bum rap in the national media. The portrayal of Christians as “doctrinaire crazy hothead people” doesn’t square with fond recollections of former public radio colleagues who kept Bibles on their desks and invited him to screenings of Rapture movies.From Open Culture:
Atheists seem to be getting downright evangelical, eager to preach the not-so-good news that religion is a sham. From CNN:
Jonathan Merritt asks whether gender roles are timeless or a cultural phenomena at Religion News Service:
I really, truly heard it for the first time: “I’m not missing something,” she said. “I don’t want you to see me as lacking. I’m perfectly fine without religion.”
Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says that the West is suffering for its loss of faith and unless we rediscover religion, our civilization is in peril.
One way to look at the place of faith in society is to follow the money.
Here are two indicators of where the culture is going relative to faith: charitable giving and sales of art.
A study comparing the tweets five prominent Christians and five prominent atheists indicate that the Christians are more cheerful in their everyday language.
Even in a society that is increasingly secular, are Christians still privileged over other religions?
Here is one answer from Sam Killerman who created a list of 30 or more indicators of Christian privilege at the blog "It's Pronounced Metrosexual."
Number of commentators on the reactions to Paula Deen:
Catholic priest Jim O'Shea's essay in The Huffington Post suggests that Deen is an easy target to make people feel better about racism:
Ashley Taylor reports in the New York Times on research that looks at the connections between the faith of a patient and the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy. It seems that faith is a positive predictor of treatment effectiveness. An excerpt:
Doug Banister wonders if the mission trip has become a kind of tourism for wealthy Christians who want to do good in exotic places.
This is our City blog at Christianitytoday.com
“Now I would love to tell you that there is no conflict between science and religion at all,” he told the gathering, “but I’m afraid there is.” said Nick Knisely, bishop of Rhode Island in the Providence Journal. He goes on to discuss his beliefs as a person of faith and a scientist:
She co-starred with Elvis Presley and Montgomery Clift, and was touted as "the new Grace Kelly." Then she became a nun. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Pope Francis ended his trip to Rio by chatting for more than an hour with reporters on a wide range of topics, including homosexuality and the ordination of women. John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter writes:
Gather millions of people from all over the world for a public event, throw in a new pope and what do you have? A security nightmare! Yet Pope Francis appeared to break all the rules for dignitaries in public. He took the glass off the "pope-moblie" and let people mob the vehicle to try to touch him or just get a glimpse of him.
His security strategy? Trust the people.
A report from the Census Bureau offers an interactive, online map of languages spoken in homes in the US:
In his conversation with Rabbi Julia Neuberger at the Edinburgh international book festival, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams spoke about pop spirituality and voiced skepticism about claims that Christians in the UK are persecuted.
The Guardian describes the conversation.
Al-Jazeera America began broadcasting on August 20th. But will Americans tune in?
Father Matthew Moretz, of St. Bartholomew's Church in New York City, exegetes the controversial song by Kanye West Yeezus.
New data indicates that loyalty to the church on the part of Roman Catholic women in the United States is declining relative to men. David Briggs writes at the Association of Religious Data Archives:
Amanda Marcotte sees how conservatives both claim Christ and vilify the poor in contradiction to the teachings and example of Jesus and wonders why this is so?
The Rev. Wil Gafney, PhD., Associate Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, and an Episcopal Priest, writes on a common experience for both those who go to seminary and those who do other extensive studies of the Bible (like EfM: Education for Ministry):
Hobby Lobby came under fire this week when a New Jersey man complained about treatment he says a Jewish woman received when she asked about the lack of Jewish-themed merchandise in the company's stores. Hobby Lobby's owner and president, a conservative evangelical Christian, issued an apology late yesterday but didn't go so far as to say the chain will begin carrying items related to Jewish holidays. From Religion News Service:
From Religion News Service:
At 82, retired and enjoying life, Bishop John Shelby Spong doesn’t have to be the liberal enfant terrible whose pronouncements for gay rights and against traditional dogmas once scandalized Christendom.
Recently the Café ran an essay on "pub theology" and questions were asked, around the edges, about meeting in bars and how that might affect those who are in recovery from alcohol addiction. On Twitter some questions have been raised about the prevalence of jokes about how drunk clergy and laity have been the night before or at meetings. How can the church strike a balance around responsible drinking of alcohol? Does your church offer equally attractive alternative beverages in places where alcohol is served?
I just returned from the first national conference presented by Thistle Farms, the amazing Nashville-based ministry launched by the Rev. Becca Stevens to help women recover from lives of prostitution, drug addiction and abuse. Most of the 250 attendees were women, from all over the country, hoping in some way to create or bolster programs back home based on the Thistle Farms/Magdalene model. From Episcopal News Service:
From Religion News Service:
The number of Hispanic-Americans who say they adhere to no religion is growing and now rivals the number of Hispanic evangelicals, a new study has found.
A gathering of Washington, DC area clergy have joined the move to change the racist name of the Washington professional football team. Religion News Service reports:
Happy Halloween from the Episcopal Café team:
Kareem Abdul Jabar offers some thoughts on the difference between being a sports or other entertainment idol and being a hero. From Esquire:
Pope Francis is surveying Catholic bishops around the world about how to provide pastoral care in practical ways to meet the needs of modern families, including same-sex couples. From Agence France Press, via rawstory.com:
From Religion News Service:
Pope Francis could be at risk from the ‘Ndrangheta organized crime organization, according to a leading anti-mob prosecutor who has himself been the target of threats from the mafia.
This month marks an event that took place fifty years ago that has shaped and influenced our culture.
I am talking, of course, of Dr. Who.
The Rev. Matthew Stewart. The Herald News, Fall River, MA, reflects on "The spirituality of the 2013 Red Sox:"
Writing at his blog A Long Way from Home, Evan D. Garner wonders about leaving extra large tips for servers:
Jonathan Merritt sees a growing number of "reality" shows that focus on the church and wonders if this trend is really a good thing.
My husband has three wonderful grown children, none of whom profess any religious belief, God bless 'em. They've produced some beautiful grandchildren for us. During this Christmas season, I wrestle a little over whether it's OK to nudge these angels toward at least some understanding of the Biblical foundations of the holiday. Am I overstepping to send the grandkids Nativity sets or picture books depicting the Holy Family?
The Center for the Ministry of Teaching at Virginia Theological Seminary has been working with faith formation ministers in congregations and dioceses to test out a new model for Christian education and faith development. The Rev. Kyle Matthew Oliver, digital missioner and learning lab coordinator at the Center, is looking for feedback on this new "hybrid" model, focusing on small group learning in person and online. He writes:
Fox News television host Megyn Kelly told viewers on her December 11 broadcast that Jesus and Santa are both white men.
"Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change," Kelly said. "Jesus was a white man, too. It's like we have, he's a historical figure that's a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?"
Daniel Burke comments on the "Duck Dynasty" controversy at CNN Belief Blog. He writes that Phil Robertson misinterprets the verses quoted:
Dan Webster recently visited a Baltimore move theater that fosters a kind of fellowship through its "Cinema Sundays," at which people gather on Sunday morning to watch a movie and then discuss its ethical and spiritual implications. He writes:
Two women who both endured the deaths of their parents at early ages channeled their grief into a new website called Modern Loss, intended as a forum for twenty- and thirtysomethings struggling with grief and mourning.
The Anglican Communion News Service writes about the Christmas Twitter campaign led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York:
What if religious liberals became radically observant in their faith practices? Unitarian minister Ana Levy-Lyons writes at Huffington Post:
A crowded hearing of the House Armed Services Committee confronted Defense Department officials and chaplains with the question of whether a new Department of Defense policy to ensure religious freedom is working.
Reports of the hearing focused on two groups: the freedom of minority religions to express themselves and whether evangelical Christians, particularly in the chaplain's corps, are permitted to proselytize.
Something from BARNA research to consider while we are re-imagining The Episcopal Church:
Jeffrey Weiss at RNS says “The Lego Movie” builds its story upon religious and moral themes which snap together in some very unexpected ways. Torey Lightcap shares twenty ways the film informs his faith.
Weiss says in his review that the faith and values themes "don’t all snap together securely... that’s in keeping with the rest of the film...."
Great essay here by W. Hunter Roberts on what she views as a new, angry, fundamentalist strain of atheism:
The feedback from Roman Catholic laity around the world in advance of a meeting between the College of Cardinals and Pope Francis indicate that there is wide and growing gap between the experience of laity in the living of their faith and the example and teaching of the church heirarchy. In particular there is a growing chasm over issues such as contraception, cohabitation, gay marriage and whether divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Communion.
Young adults are joining Franciscan Earth Corps which encourages social and environmental projects connected to Franciscan spirituality. Religion News Service reports:
As churches are preparing for Lent with the last parties of Shrove Tuesday pancakes, Mardi Gras beads, Carnival masks, Taco Tuesday, and Fat Tuesday, they are also burning the palms from last year's Palm Sunday processions, smashing the ashes with mortar and pestle and sieving out the larger bits. All to get ready to offer the news that we remember we are dust and to dust we shall return. Here is a round up of activities and thoughts about the season of Lent and why it is more than just giving up chocolate:
The current film "Son of God" tells us as much about the movements and tensions of our world today as it does tell the story of Jesus. The film reminds us that one surefire way to understand what is going in the culture is to look at how Jesus shows up in the movies.
Katelyn Beaty, managing editor of Christianity Today, offers what one commenter calls "a humble rant this is worth reading" in this "Open Apology to the Local Church":
Lent has become quite popular this year. Starting with the trending #ashtag, where people took pictures of themselves wearing ashes, then posted them to social media, Lent has made its presence felt across Facebook and Twitter.
Jon Stewart hosts the head of Pew Research on The Daily Show to discuss the millennial generation. Data shows a group who have not crossed the traditional marker lines of adulthood. Many still live at home, are not married (50% less than their parents at this age), they like their parents,they don't identify with political parties or organizations, believe in government, and are very liberal. Watch how millennials are changing the US and how might they change the church (if they come?). What do you see as opportunities for the Gospel in these characteristics?
Patheos blog Christ and Pop Culture explores the power of words to wound and to heal, using conversations in Downton Abbey as examples:
With all the Bible based movies being released, Religion Dispatches asks if Adam and Eve will be the next one:
The upcoming film, Noah, is being debate between and among various religious traditions. Religion News Service writes:
Jonathan Merritt wonders at Religion News Service about the reaction of evangelicals to the movie Noah:
Jay Michaelson says that the kinds of faith depicted in the films "Son of God" and "Noah" are as radically different as the markets they reach out to. One is kitsch and the other complex.
Writing in Religion Dispatches, Michaelson says the Jesus of "Son of God" is safe, predictable and sentimental:
An iPhone message to Pentecostals from Pope Francis, created a few months ago, has proven quite popular. From AP, via the St.Louis Post-Dispatch:
Yes, you heard right on your car this morning: NPR's Morning Edition has caught the madness. Lent Madness, that is.
Their website actually has the complete bracket!
From their story:
Believing that the ways of academic specilization and business-style management is leaving the church bereft, the Dean and faculty of General Seminary are embarking on an experiment to integrate theological education with the daily, lived experience of the church. They are calling this exploration "The Way of Wisdom."
An Earth Day meditation: Deep Peace of the Running Wave
The program, On Being with Krista Tippett, looks at why we might need creeds in our time:
American University United Methodist-Protestant Community offered a sermon series using the Game of Thrones. Here is their final summation:
The Atlantic reports on the growing influence of progressive churches:
Cathy Lynn Grossman of Religion News Service takes issue with HGTV's decision to cancel plans to feature twins David and Jason Benham in a new show, "Flip It Forward." HGTV pulled out of a deal with the brothers after RightWingWatch.org circulated video of them making anti-gay, anti-choice statements at a political rally. She writes:
It’s Duck Dynasty redux… sort of.
This time, instead of the bearded patriarch of A&E in trouble for comments about gays and weird ideas about black people, it’s a social media teardown over the rehab twins’ harsh you-can-google-them views about homosexuality and abortion.
... Don’t like them? Don’t watch them. Bad ratings are a faster way to kill a show than any political blowup.
But can I watch people whose religious, social or political views may not be my own (even those who insist an island in every kitchen) take a sledgehammer to a mildewed basement wall? Sure.
Read her full column here. And let us know: Was HGTV right to can the Benhams? And would you hire a contractor to say, tile your bathroom, if you noted inflammatory bumper stickers on his or her truck?
Chris Yaw of ChurchNext, with the blessings of his congregation, took his Google Glass Explorers to church:
From the Public Religion Research Institute:
A new PRRI study, “I Know What You Did Last Sunday: Measuring Social Desirability Bias in Self-Reported Religious Behavior, Belief, and Belonging,” asked random samples of Americans identical questions about religious attendance, affiliation, salience and belief in God on two surveys – one via telephone and the other online – and compared the results.
James Faulconer, Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University writes "beliefs, theological or otherwise, don't have a special, more fundamental place in their relationship with the other parts of religious life and experience" at Patheos:
What a difference a decade makes! Ten years ago when Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriage, there were predictions of the end of the world, 11 states passed bans on same-sex marriage --that are now being struck down as unconstitutional--and the fervor swayed a presidential election. So what changed?
From the Huffington Post:
Pope Francis' visit to the Holy Land on May 24 has highlighted an increasing exodus of Christians from the Middle East, the very region that gave birth to the religion.
In the American Nuns debate with the Vatican, the role of French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's "Conscious Evolution" is causing Roman Catholic Church officials to take notice:
Pew Research has issued a new report about political polarization and how it affects everything from voting to where one prefers to live.
Your resume is not the place to let your light shine when it comes to religion, unless you happen to be Jewish, according to a new study. From the Washington Post:
Pope Francis declared today that mobsters are "not with God," and are excommunicated from the Catholic Church. From CNN:
Ramadan begins today, posing a challenge for World Cup competitors who are Muslim. From Religion News Service:
In a country plagued by poverty, a new church has risen to replicate the Temple of Solomon. From the New York Times:
In the NY Times, TR Luhrmann examines the phenomenon of 'boggle lines'--the point at which someone draws the line between what can be accepted into an operational worldview and what seems utterly fantastical. Luhrmann explains that each person's boggle line is different. A person may have no trouble believing God became a mortal being two millennia ago, but may find the prospect of progressive evolution fantastical.
What to do with church buildings throughout the world no longer thriving as houses of worship? Oliver Farry, a non-believer, muses about this at the New Statesman:
Phillip Pullman, whom the New Yorker once called 'the most outspoken atheist in Britain', wrote the young adult trilogy, His Dark Materials, which cemented his reputation around the world, and gained him notoriety among conservative religious folk.
Religion News Service reports that Pope Francis has reinstated the Rev. Miguel D'Escoto Brockman, who was suspended “For his political actions, involvement in the Sandinista government and failing to resign from a political office held in violation of his ministry,...”
He carries a cross through one of the country's toughest neighborhoods, dressed as Jesus. He's conducted baptisms in Philadelphia's Love Park. He dreams of creating Philly Jesus wine, Philly Jesus bread and Philly Jesus Halloween costumes. Stephanie Farr of the Philadelphia Daily News reports:
Rev. William H. Barnwell of New Orleans is an Episcopal priest active in Kairos Prison Ministry International. He writes in the Times-Picayune of the need for churches and civic organizations to do more to welcome back to the community those who have served their time, as they struggle to find jobs and housing. Barnwell writes:
Does your church offer a bathroom ministry? You may have never thought of it as such, but in New York City, this is a much appreciated outreach at Trinity Wall Street and St. Paul's Chapel. The New York Times reports:
Over at Medium, Dexter Thomas offers his Christological reflection on Michael Brown's shooting:
When the conversation turns to "the decline of the church," especially among young adults, we tend to focus on program, technique and demography. But we seldom talk about the need for, and the difficulty of, church being a place of authentic relationship in community. While we tinker, we do not face the truth that many people--not just young adults-- are just "one Sunday brunch away from never returning.”
From the Huffington Post:
The city of Rochester, New York will kick off a program on Saturday aimed at improving relations between community members and law enforcement -- and the timing could not be better.
New York Times reports that an Episcopal priest is among the finalists for the 2014 National Book Awards for poetry:
The face of Christianity in America has been co-opted by a faith that is individualistic, self-oriented, exclusivist and entrepreneurial, Marcus Borg writes at Patheos.com:
Nothing in the Bible justifies deregulation of gun sales and ownership, according to a panel of religious activists who spoke this week at the Religion Newswriters Association's annual conference in Decatur, Ga. The panel included Rachel Laser from the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, Christian ethicist David Gushee of Mercer University, Bryan Miller of Heeding God's Call, Atlanta Episcopal Diocese Bishop Robert Wright and Jim Winkler, the president of the National Council of Churches. Reporter Kay Campbell writes at AL.com:
The activist and editor Rose Berger has taken the video of a confrontation that took part in a Washington D. C. neighborhood this morning as her text for a little adult education exercise called How To Defend Your Neighbor In Bold Stripe Maxi Dress (With Discussion Questions).
The Church has dealt with the issue of how to respond to infectious disease before, from the 1919 flu epidemic to swine flu. Today's concerns over ebola are again causing churches to examine practices such the passing of the peace and distribution of communion.
A Presbyterian asks Roman Catholics a questions that should be asked of all denominations: how well does the Church care for divorced (and divorcing) persons?
Bill Tammeus, writing in NCR, rehearses the traditional teaching of the RC Church and describes his own story:
In these final few days prior to the mid-term elections, PewResearch looks into the demographics of those least likely to vote. They are younger, more racially diverse and facing greater economic challenges than those most likely to vote. The research suggests that large numbers of non-voters are just not plugged into the electoral process.
Dave Albertson, writing in OnFaith, says that the from the time of St. Paul down to the present, the church is a bourgeois institution. He says the decline of the church is tied directly to the decline of the middle class.
Sainsbury’s, a British grocery chain has released a Christmas TV commercial that has gone viral, set during the First World War, showing the Christmas Day truce which occurred along some parts of the front in 1914. The ad is part of the store’s campaign to raise money for a British veteran’s organization, the British Legion and uses the tagline, ‘Christmas is for Sharing.’
Though the response has been largely positive, the ad is not without its’ critics. Many formal complaints have been lodged with the British Advertising Standards Authority, including one form a Church of England Cleric, The Rev Nicholas Clews as reported by the Church Times
The Revd Nicholas Clews, Priest-in-Charge at St Margaret of Antioch, Thornbury, and St James the Great, Woodhall, in the diocese of Bradford, lodged a formal protest with the Advertising Standards Authority "within ten minutes" of seeing the TV commercial. It is based on a truce that took place at Christmas, 1914, when British and German troops fraternised briefly in no man's land. The long advert (it lasts three minutes, 41 seconds) ends with a young Tommy slipping a chocolate bar he has only just received from home into the pocket of an equally fresh-faced German. The final shot is the caption "Christmas is for Sharing", and then "Sainsbury's". Similar chocolate bars are on sale in Sainsbury's, with half of the £1 price going to the Royal British Legion. Mr Clews said: "I think it trivialises the suffering of World War One, and in many ways misses the point about the significance of what happened on Christmas Day 1914 [which] was that a chance for peace was missed. It's a tragedy. For a day: those soldiers realised they were human beings, and they shared that humanity. That's a tremendous message for Christmas; but the significance of Christmas is that it's not about a day, it's about life."
The First World War looms large in the British cultural imagination, as evidenced by the recent display of ceramic poppies surrounding the Tower of London for Remembrance Day, where over 800,000 ceramic poppies were installed, one for every WW1 death of a British soldier. But, as moving as the ad is, does it trivialize the event it depicts as Clews and others suggest? The First World War is arguably the most significant disruption in Western culture in the past 500 hundred years.
When we sentimentalize the brief moments of grace in the midst of tragedy, does that in some way obscure the tragedy to the point where we no longer see it? Perhaps something similar is at work in the way we remember the story of Christ? Do we tend only to see the beatific child in the manger and miss the man to die on the cross that child is called to be?
Over at the Lutheran, the magazine of our communion partner, the ELCA; they’re asking “Has God forgotten how to call young people?”
Drawing on research by the Pew Research Center, the article states;
29 percent of millennials (ages 18-33) aren’t affiliated with any religion and the rate of atheism in this group is twice as high as any other generation in America. Why? David Kinnaman, author of You Lost Me (Baker Books, 2011), suggests millennials are leaving the church because they experience it as overprotective, shallow, anti-science, simplistic toward sex, exclusive and unwilling to provide room for doubt.
But the ELCA should be a mecca for young people. We have a complex understanding of sexuality, an open view of Christianity, we provide room for doubt and promote scientific exploration. So why are our young people leaving?
The same question applies to the Episcopal Church; the average age of our membership is 57 and the Church Pension Group’s Report on the Clergy noted that
“The age distribution of clergy has changed drastically over time, with fewer clergy being ordained at younger ages and more clergy with older ages at ordination.” The current average age at ordination is 44, and out of over 13,000 clergy, only 624 of which are under the age of 40.
The Lutheran editorial posits it’s an issue of courage
Millennials are afraid to be Christian. It’s safe to join the Peace Corps, run a race that raises money for the poor, occupy Wall Street or make the world awesome by being a “nerdfighter.” It is not safe to be a Jesus follower.
But also, they suggest it is a lack of courage on the part of the Church;
We must be a church willing to venture into such fear and speak a word to a generation equally afraid. We must lay down our insecurities and follow our Lord who laid down his life. We must “not be ashamed of the gospel”
Does that sound right? Is the prevailing cultural image of Christianity overwhelming our witness? Does the issue lie with the Church mainly or elsewhere?