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:
Riley, a former editor at The Wall Street Journal, is neither a cheerleader nor a scold. Her book functions more as a flashing yellow light at an intersection: slow down, be alert — pay attention to what serious differences may mean to a close relationship. She brings a careful, nuanced and thoughtful approach to an often contentious subject. And she adds considerable value by including results of a poll she commissioned to survey 2,450 Americans on the subject of interfaith marriage. Thus we learn that same-faith couples report somewhat higher rates of “marital satisfaction” (8.4 on a scale of 10) than do their interfaith counterparts (7.9). But the responses by specific groups vary. For example, mainline Protestants seem happy in their interfaith unions, at 8.2 on Riley’s scale. So, too, do Roman Catholics, at 8.1. Evangelical Protestants (those who describe themselves as “born-again”) are further down the scale at 7.7. Still, given the various challenges marriage itself can pose, none of these numbers are bad.
Riley’s initial interest in the subject is personal. A Jew who married a lapsed Jehovah’s Witness, she reassured her future husband — on their first date — that her family would like him as long as he agreed their children should be raised as Jews. Years on, it’s a happy marriage. (Her sister, by the way, is married to an Orthodox rabbi.) But this is no memoir. Riley rigorously sticks to her role as inquiring journalist, crossing the nation to interview people in interfaith marriages, as well as clergymen and -women who think a great deal about these unions. She covers a broad waterfront, even including mention of niche products that cater to interfaith couples (for example, holiday cards with elves spinning dreidels).
Unsurprisingly, the couples she interviews prove most interesting for the stories they tell. Amy, an evangelical Christian married to Farid, a Muslim, have a relaxed, gently humorous way of relating to each other. David, a Jew married to a Catholic, finds his wife emphatic that their family be observant, transposing her childhood experience in church onto her new family’s Jewish practice. As her husband says, that has “forced me to be much more active and engaged and involved” as a Jew. But such success stories have their unhappy counterparts; Riley’s chapter on divorce makes for painful reading. One woman, a lapsed Christian who married a Jew and rediscovered a powerful faith after her father died, bluntly tells Riley that she would “recommend against” marrying someone of a different faith. “Marriage is hard enough to not add the added dimension of such a fundamental disagreement,” she said. “Both faiths warn against marrying outside the faith for good reasons.”