Daily Archives: November 21, 2014
On a Sunday morning this past October, some 1,500 preachers and ministers across the country joined in a nationwide protest they called Pulpit Freedom Sunday. They spoke defiantly from their pulpits about political campaigns and pending legislation. They even endorsed politicians, knowingly violating laws meant to prevent such mixing of church and state. Organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom, this group of evangelicals targeted the Johnson Amendment, which forbids tax-exempt organizations from endorsing political candidates and getting involved in campaigns. By violating these rules in an act of civil disobedience, they hoped to trigger a court case to get the amendment overturned. The issue, as they see it, is too much involvement by the government in religious life. The government should not tell Christians how to run their businesses, how to teach their children, or””as the Pulpit Freedom Sunday protesters asserted””how to write their sermons.
These sermons of protest were part of a broader political mobilization among religious institutions in the United States in recent years. The number of “Nones”””those professing no religious affiliation””is on the rise, and a small but vocal group of atheists are challenging Christian displays in public spaces. And the Christian Right appears to be losing the battle on gay rights. In response, many of the leading conservative religious organizations are mobilizing politically while also shifting their strategy. Their new aim is to mark off a part of life that can remain Christian, to protect Christians as a minority that can stand apart from the demands of a national culture they see as being dominated by secularism. The Hobby Lobby case was only the most prominent example of this trend.
On the other hand, a broad swath of American Christians sees things entirely differently. Although they receive far less attention, members of the religious left do not feel besieged by their country. Instead, they are pushing law and politics in the very directions the religious right is resisting. The United Church of Christ filed suit in April 2014 to overturn the prohibition on gay marriage in North Carolina. In the same state, many ministers are participating in the “Moral Monday” campaigns, a movement that is saturated in religious language. And Jim Wallis and Cornel West were arrested last month for protesting police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri. Although the left differs with the right on cultural policy, both groups see political mobilization as being at the heart of religious thought and practice.
Admissions officers at Morehouse College in Atlanta were shocked several years ago when a number of high school seniors submitted applications using email addresses containing provocative language.
Some of the addresses made sexual innuendos while others invoked gangster rap songs or drug use, said Darryl D. Isom, Morehouse’s director of admissions and recruitment.
But last year, he and his staff noticed a striking reversal: Nearly every applicant to Morehouse, an all-male historically black college, used his real name, or some variation, as his email address.
Morehouse admissions officials, who occasionally dip into applicants’ public social media profiles looking for additional details about them, also found fewer provocative posts.
Watch it and enjoy.
Make new Friends”¦ there are some great examples of Church Friends Groups in the diocese. They take a bit of effort to get going, but can typically double the number of people involved in supporting the heritage of the church and help with fund raising. National Churches Trust offers a useful guide ”“ ask us for a copy.
Arrange an exhibition”¦ this can be a great way to engage local people, especially if this can involve children. Is there a local history link that you could make? Don’t forget that the ”˜Lindisfarne Legacy’ pop-up exhibition is still available for free use by churches to help complement local events.
Design a trail”¦ what are the ten most interesting things about your church, churchyard or immediate surroundings? Why not create a short trail leaflet to encourage visitors to explore and appreciate the significance of your church? We can send you an advice sheet and a template you could use for this.
Dozens of faith leaders and consumer advocates are pressing Congress to create a national interest rate cap for payday lenders instead of the exorbitant three-digit rates currently charged to people in several states. Eighty activists from 22 states came to Washington in hopes of shaping new regulations that are expected from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Many of their congregations are surrounded by payday loan businesses that they say prey on poor residents by charging high interest rates and creating a cycle of debt.
“Together, you guys are really bringing a strong message and a light and a moral perspective about predatory lending that’s valuable,” said Rachel Anderson, director of faith-based outreach for the Center for Responsible Lending, which spearheaded a three-day visit and training session for religious leaders on Capitol Hill. “We hope that your message is heard strongly.”
The leaders asked members of Congress on Wednesday (November 19) to pass legislation capping interest rates, citing a 36 percent interest cap required by the Military Lending Act. “If it’s fair for the military, we felt it should be fair for all people,” said the Rev. Susan McCann of Grace Episcopal Church in Liberty, Missouri.
It isn’t hard to figure out what made Mr. Nichols so competitive. Born in Berlin in 1931, he got out of Germany at the age of 7, mere steps ahead of the Holocaust. After that, nobody had to tell him that Jews got no favors. Characteristically, he claimed that it was an advantage. “The thing about being an outsider,” he said in 2012, “is that it teaches you to hear what people are thinking because you’re constantly looking for the people who just don’t give a damn.”
Mr. Nichols made his name in the ’50s by improvising supremely sharp-witted comedy routines with Elaine May. The lightning-quick timing that he cultivated on nightclub stages served him well when he took up directing in 1963. During a rehearsal for the Broadway premiere of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” he got into a shouting match with Walter Matthau. “You’re emasculating me!” the actor shouted. “Give me back my balls!” “Certainly,” Mr. Nichols replied, then snapped his fingers to summon the stage manager. “Props!”
Mr. Nichols’s work was unshowy, even self-effacing. “It’s not a filmmaker’s job to explain his technique, but to tell his story the best way he can,” he said. Hence no one will ever think of him as a groundbreaker, a radically original creative artist. He was, rather, an interpreter, and in the studio he almost always did his best work with familiar material like Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (his first film) and the TV version of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America,” both of which clearly convey the visceral impact of the plays on which they were based. Few of his other films will be as well remembered. Even 1967’s “The Graduate,” which vaulted him into the pantheon of Hollywood superstars, now looks like a period piece, a carefully posed snapshot of a key moment in postwar American culture.
But the fact that Mr. Nichols did make films means that he himself will likely be remembered longer than any other American stage director of his generation.
[Archbp Justin Welby]…also told reporters that he could not say with any certainty when the first women might be appointed bishop. “The Archbishops have just one vote out of 14 [on the Crown Nominations Commission], and our ability to control or prevent appointments is very limited. I know there are some very good people, and we hope that some will also find their way on to the bishops’ bench.”
If bishops retire as expected, Archbishop Welby said, women could make up half the College of Bishops within ten to 15 years.
Campaigners for women bishops reacted with pleasure to the news that the long road to allowing women into the episcopate had now ended. The chairwoman of WATCH (Women and the Church), Hillary Cotton, told the BBC that the move was highly significant.
“It is not just about having women wearing purple, it is about changing the culture of the Church to be more equal.”
I had the privilege of being part of a Fordham University event last night on the future of religion, responding (along with a rather more distinguished fellow panelist) to remarks by the religion journalist and academic Molly Worthen on the roots of institutional faith’s present-day developed-world decline. There was, I think, some basic agreement among all of the panelists about some of the patterns and shifts we’re experiencing right now (the decline of institutional authority, the working out of the sexual revolution, the rise of the so-called “nones”), and then a number of interesting things were said about the possible unknowns that might either accelerate or redirect current trends: There was discussion of how institutional-cum-orthodox forms of faith might experience some sort of revival, of how spiritual-but-not-religious forms of faith might represent the vanguard of an entirely new era of religious understanding, and of how religious forces outside the developed world (Islam, Pentecostalism, Chinese Christianity) might matter more to the West itself than a Western-centric vision allows.
All of us were trying, I think, to escape a little bit from the tyranny of extrapolation ”” the tendency to assume that today’s trends will necessarily be tomorrow’s, and that history happens in a relatively linear and Whiggish fashion. But reflecting on the discussion afterward, it seems worth dwelling a little more the importance of the unexpected in religious history, the ways in which various forms of rupture and reversal can make punditry look foolish.
The human head weighs about a dozen pounds. But as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase. At a 15-degree angle, this weight is about 27 pounds, at 30 degrees it’s 40 pounds, at 45 degrees it’s 49 pounds, and at 60 degrees it’s 60 pounds.
That’s the burden that comes with staring at a smartphone ”” the way millions do for hours every day, according to research published by Kenneth Hansraj in the National Library of Medicine. The study will appear next month in Surgical Technology International. Over time, researchers say, this poor posture, sometimes called “text neck,” can lead to early wear-and-tear on the spine, degeneration and even surgery.
“It is an epidemic or, at least, it’s very common,” Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, told The Washington Post. “Just look around you, everyone has their heads down.”
O God our Father, let us find grace in thy sight so as to have grace to serve thee acceptably with reverence and godly fear; and further grace not to receive thy grace in vain, nor to neglect it and fall from it, but to stir it up and grow in it, and to persevere in it unto the end of our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They will perish, but thou dost endure; they will all wear out like a garment. Thou changest them like raiment, and they pass away; but thou art the same, and thy years have no end.
Nobody can deny that Mr Welby has tried hard to keep the family intact. He has visited Anglicans in almost every part of the globe and was well received everywhere. But this week he acknowledged the deep divisions which, he told the synod, may be “too much to manage”. Anglicanism, he went on, is in a state so delicate that “without prayer and repentance, it is hard to see how we can avoid some serious fractures.” Mr Welby also acknowledged for the first time that the splits are so great that the Lambeth conference, a once-a-decade gathering of global Anglican bishops, might never happen again.
The split is mainly but not solely over same-sex relations. At one end of the spectrum, the Episcopal church in America has consecrated an openly lesbian bishop; at the other end, African bishops have supported harsh anti-gay laws. By comparison, the issue of female bishops is not so divisive. But developing-world conservatives are also dismayed when their northern colleagues make liberal theological noises””by suggesting, for example, that Jesus might not be the only way to salvation.
Much has been made of the growing post-Christian sentiment among America’s youngest generation of adults. But how has this well-documented turn away from religion affected Millennials’ views of Christianity’s most sacred text?
Has the “brand” of the Bible suffered or significantly shifted among young adults?
In a recent study among Millennials, conducted in partnership with American Bible Society and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Barna Group sought to discover how changing ideas about Christianity might be affecting perceptions of the Bible. This study””the largest Barna Group has ever done on a single generation’s view of the Bible””looked at Millennials’ beliefs, perceptions and practices surrounding Scripture. Three significant””and surprising””insights emerged. 1) Practicing Christian young adults maintain a traditional, high view of Scripture. 2) In contrast, non-Christian Millennials hold ambivalent and sometimes extremely negative perceptions of the Bible and of those who read it. 3) And while the screen age has impacted Bible engagement, print remains Millennials’ favored format for Bible reading.
A shuttered church could soon shine a light on Rhode Island’s dark role in the slave trade.
Church leaders hope it will also help heal a divided state and nation.
The Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island wants to use part of the Cathedral of St. John for a museum that will look at those who made money in the slave trade ”” and those who opposed it. Churchgoers and clergymen filled both camps.