Category : Religion & Culture

(Wash Post) Struggling to prevent terrorist attacks, France wants to ‘reform’ Islam

Speaking alongside the flag-draped coffin of a police officer killed in a terrorist attack in southern France, President Emmanuel Macron last month lay blame on “underground Islamism” and those who “indoctrinate on our soil and corrupt daily.”

The attack added further urgency to a project already in the works: Macron has embarked on a controversial quest to restructure Islam in France — with the goal of integration but also the prevention of radicalization.

He has said that in the coming months he will announce “a blueprint for the whole organization” of Islam. And those trying to anticipate what that will look like are turning their attention to Hakim El Karoui, a leading voice on how Islamic traditions fit within French culture.

It is hard to miss that the man who appears to have Macron’s ear on this most sensitive of subjects cuts a similar figure. Like the president, El Karoui is an ex-Rothschild investment banker with an elite social pedigree who favors well-tailored suits, crisp white shirts and the lofty province of big ideas.

The latest of those ideas is this — that the best way to integrate Islam within French society is to promote a version of the religion “practiced in peace by believers who will not have the need to loudly proclaim their faith.”

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Posted in France, Islam, Religion & Culture

(AP) Medical marijuana push spreads to Utah, Oklahoma

Nathan Frodsham, a 45-year-old married Mormon father of three, is hoping the measure passes so he can get off opioids and back to using the vaporized form of marijuana that he used when he lived in Seattle after his doctor recommended trying for his painful osteoarthritis in his neck.

Frodsham wasn’t discouraged by the Mormon church statement, which he notes doesn’t go as far in opposition as when the church explicitly asked members to vote against full marijuana legalization in Arizona and Nevada. He said marijuana is a natural plant and that the religion’s health code doesn’t single out cannabis as being prohibited.

“I think there’s some room for interpretation on this,” said Frodsham.

The 4,500-member Utah Medical Association isn’t against the idea of legalized medical marijuana but has numerous concerns with an initiative it thinks is too broad and doesn’t include necessary regulatory measures, said Michelle McOmber, the group’s CEO.

“We want to be very careful about what we bring into our state,” McOmber said. “This is an addictive drug.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Mormons, Religion & Culture, State Government, Theology

(The Economist) Trends in Burial and Cremation are Changing Around the World

In religious countries, burial is still the norm; Ireland buries 82% of its dead, Italy 77%. But over half of Americans are cremated, up from less than 4% in 1960, and this is expected to rise to 79% by 2035. In Japan, where the practice is seen as purification for the next life, it is nearly universal. Cremation, direct or otherwise, is not the only rival to old-fashioned burial. A study in 2015 found that over 60% of Americans in their 40s and older would consider a “green” burial, with no embalming and a biodegradable casket, if any. Five years before the proportion was just over 40%.

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Globalization, Religion & Culture

(Guardian) NHS appoints humanist to lead chaplaincy team

A humanist has been appointed to lead a team of NHS chaplains, in a move that reflects growing demand for emotional and spiritual support from people who do not identify with any organised religion.

Lindsay van Dijk will lead three Christian chaplains and a team of 24 volunteers, including a Catholic nun, a Buddhist and a Bahá’í, at the Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS trust. The world-renowned spinal injuries unit at Stoke Mandeville hospital is part of the trust.

Although there are two other humanists among the NHS’s paid chaplains, it is the first time that chaplains in hospitals and hospices will work under a non-religious leader.

Van Dijk, 28, told the Guardian: “A lot of people don’t have an organised faith, but still have spiritual and emotional needs at difficult times. Often people are trying to make sense of their lives and the situations they find themselves in.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in England / UK, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Buddhism in America: An Asian religion gains popularity in the New World

Chris Nyambura was raised Catholic but over the past six months he has started calling himself Buddhist. Aged 23, he is a graduate student in chemical engineering. Like many of his generation, especially on the American West Coast, he appreciates the emphasis on mental development and self-help in the spiritual practice he has chosen.

He belongs to a group of people who turn up every Sunday evening for guided meditation sessions in a small, brightly lit studio in downtown Seattle. This is one of 38 centres across the United States (and 679 around the world) affiliated to the Diamond Way movement, which has popularised a modern form of Tibetan Buddhist practice, that emphasises the practical over the arcane. Their teacher coaches them in techniques like visualisation and chanting as well as explaining some basics of the religion to any newcomers.

Mr Nyambura eagerly lists the ways in which, he feels, this practice benefits him. First, training the mental faculties. “A lot of people take refuge in relationships, food, material things. Part of Buddhism is trying to teach me how do I take refuge in my own mind.” Second, a sharper sense of cause, effect and accountability. “One of the things when we meditate is remembering how former thoughts, actions bring you to your present state and what you do now will ultimately shape your future.” Third, learning to live in the moment. “When you meditate, one of the first things is that you calm your mind and just rest in the present…”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Buddhism, Religion & Culture

(Wales Online) The remote Welsh chapel where there’s only one worshipper left

As you walk into Evan Thomas Jones’s farmhouse you are hit with a scorching dry heat and the smell of burning wood coming from the old Rayburn stove in the small cluttered kitchen.

Perched on the edge of a hill, the farmhouse is exposed to the cutting wind that blows over the Brecon Beacons and the warmth inside is delightful. Out of the window you can see the peaks of Pen y Fan and Corn Du disappearing into cloud and still coated with the early spring snow. If this was a hotel, tourists would pay a premium for these views.

But the man looking out the window is anything but a tourist. Standing straight and strong at about five foot eight, 85-year-old Evan wears green wellies, jeans and a jacket. From the window he points out the details of a valley where his family have lived for hundreds of years.

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Posted in --Wales, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(Guardian) Traditional Antisemitism is back, global study finds

Feelings of insecurity are widespread among European Jews as a result of the resurgence of the extreme right, a heated anti-Zionist discourse on the left and radical Islam, according to a global study of antisemitism.

Last year the number of recorded violent antisemitic incidents fell by about 9% compared to 2016 – and by almost 50% compared with the 2006-14 average – but there was a notable increase in harassment and abuse, according to a survey published by the Kantor Center.

The report highlights a strengthening of the extreme right in some European counties, “accompanied by slogans and symbols reminiscent of the 1930s” and “the intensity of the anti-Jewish sentiments expressed in a variety of ways […] especially on street demonstrations”. It says this may explain a discrepancy between the levels of fear among European Jews and the actual number of incidents.

“Expressions of classic traditional antisemitism are back and, for example, the term ‘Jew’ has become a swear word,” it says.

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Posted in Globalization, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(Barna) Denominational Distribution: The Most Catholic and Protestant Cities in the U.S.

Last year marked 500 years since the Protestant Reformation, but it’s not hard to see that the impact of the most significant Church split in history is still felt today. For instance, the World Christian Encyclopedia estimates that over 30,000 Christian denominations exist worldwide. Churches of all stripes practice their own flavor of ministry in cities across the United States, all based on particular interpretations of scripture and style. But what is the denominational makeup of each city in America? What are the most Catholic cities? Which areas have the greatest percentages of Baptist, or Lutheran or Pentecostal residents?

Over the years, Barna has been tracking denominational affiliation and publishing this data in our cities reports. In the infographic below, we list the top five cities for each of the main denominational categories and a few of the largest Protestant ones (specific denominational definitions below).

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Sociology, Urban/City Life and Issues

An article from Stuff about Wellington, New Zealand’s, new Cathedral Dean David Rowe

Rowe is not expected to take up his post at Wellington Cathedral until July. But it would appear that, in the 19 months since he signed the letter, he may have changed his stance.

In a letter to Bishop of Wellington Justin Duckworth after his appointment, he acknowledged concern about the signing of the 2016 letter, and said he was on a “journey and not in a fixed position” on the gay blessing issue.

Duckworth said on Wednesday that Rowe, who has ministered previously in New Zealand, and has a son and daughter-in-law working as priests in Whanganui, was well aware of Wellington Anglicans’ stance on gay blessings, and had taken the job happy and accepting of it.

“I would say he is not fixed in his position, and is trying to work out what he believes and what God is saying … he is trying to work out what he believes.”

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Charlotte Allen–The Story Behind ‘Paul, Apostle of Christ’

Christian prohibitions against abortion and infanticide encouraged the survival of baby girls and dramatically increased Christian fertility over the long term once those girls grew up and married. Many took pagan husbands, whom they sometimes converted, and then raised their children as Christians—another demographic boost.

All this is at the very heart of Mr. Hyatt’s understated movie, which takes place in the dank and clamorous Roman alleyways where slaves are bought and sold and mob violence rules. While Paul and Luke ( Jim Caviezel ) are central to the story, as important are Aquila ( John Lynch ) and Priscilla ( Joanne Whalley ). This affluent Christian married couple opened their house to alleviate some of the misery around them, feeding and sheltering families made homeless by the Great Fire.

Luke uses his physician’s skills, not a miracle, to heal a dying erstwhile pagan girl and touch the hearts of her parents. The imprisoned Paul is an icon of the power of forgiveness, for he himself has been forgiven for murdering Christians in his youth. The Christians marked for death in the arena are terrified ordinary people who somehow summon the faith to trust in an eternal life they have never seen.

Mr. Hyatt has dedicated his movie to “all who have been persecuted for their faith.” Today that resonates in large and small ways—from Islamic State’s violent repression of Christians to the controversy over wedding cakes in the U.S. It also should resonate with the future makers of faith-based movies: You don’t need $30 million to tell a powerful Christian tale.

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Posted in History, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(Spectator) Theo Hobson–why young believers need to accept faith is controversial; Are millennial churchgoers trying (too hard) to make the church a safe space?

I shouldn’t have been too surprised. I encountered similar sensitivity in a previous attempt at a side career a few years ago: teaching Religious Education at a private school. The textbook contained Michelangelo’s famous image of God creating Adam. I made a jokey reference to the childlike littleness of Adam’s genitalia, despite his muscle-man physique. Big mistake. One of these 11- or 12-year-olds reported the comment to a parent who reported it to the head who hauled me in for a surreal conversation about the mentionability of Edenic pudenda. I bet science teachers are allowed to mention penises, I protested — why shouldn’t humanities teachers, especially if the penis is actually depicted in the approved textbook?

So are holy snowflakes smothering the C of E? I consulted the vicar of a north London church who had worked at a cathedral, where his role included commissioning works of art. ‘What I’ve noticed is that sensitivity has become more secular than religious — it used to be that people were nervous of doing or saying something sacrilegious; now they’re more likely to worry about giving secular offence. And often they are not really offended themselves but are imagining other people’s reactions; they are upset on others’ behalf. So I sometimes have to persuade parishioners that something is not as problematic as they fear.’

A vicar of a central London parish told me that some of her parishioners are excessively worried that traditional Christian themes might seem illiberal. ‘We were planning a series of Lent talks last year, and brainstorming for a theme. I thought “sin” would be pretty uncontroversial, but the most vocal members of the group were dead set against it. That’s the image of religion we want to get away from, they said; it sounds so judgmental.’ But faith is controversial. There’s no getting away from it, and that’s no bad thing. Anything worthwhile is and should be challenging.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Young Adults

(NPR) America’s Next Generation Of Muslims Insists On Crafting Its Own Story

Fashion designers. Community activists. Parents. Converts. High school students facing down bullies. Podcasters creating their own space to exhale.

The newest generation of American Muslims is a mosaic, one of the most racially and ethnically diverse faith groups in the country. At a time when all religions are struggling to keep youth engaged, Islam is growing in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center.

Many American Muslims found themselves on the defensive after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But this generation says it is tired of being expected to apologize. Instead, young Muslims are determined to take control of their own stories. And they are creating fresh paths for the estimated 3.45 million Muslims in America.

Rather than defending themselves, they are defining themselves. In a tense political climate, they are worried less about explaining Islam to others and more about contributing to the American tapestry through their unique perspectives.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Islam, Religion & Culture

(CEN) Peter Brierley–Older churchgoers today

The number of older people, 65 and over, attending church on a Sunday in England is increasing. There were 810,000 going to church in 1980, and 980,000 in 2017 (a 21 per cent increase). In Scotland, however, the numbers are respectively 190,000 and 170,000 (an 11 per cent decrease).

The proportion of older people in church in England is also increasing. It was 18 per cent in 1980 and 34 per cent in 2017; in Scotland the percentages were 21 per cent and 42 per cent respectively, also increasing significantly. In the population, numbers of those 65 and over are also increasing.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in --Scotland, Aging / the Elderly, England / UK, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(NYT) Holocaust Is Fading From Memory, Survey of Americans Finds

For seven decades, “never forget” has been a rallying cry of the Holocaust remembrance movement.

But a survey released Thursday, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, found that many adults lack basic knowledge of what happened — and this lack of knowledge is more pronounced among millennials, whom the survey defined as people ages 18 to 34.

Thirty-one percent of Americans, and 41 percent of millennials, believe that two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust; the actual number is around six million. Forty-one percent of Americans, and 66 percent of millennials, cannot say what Auschwitz was. Only 39 percent of Americans know that Hitler was democratically elected.

“As we get farther away from the actual events, 70-plus years now, it becomes less forefront of what people are talking about or thinking about or discussing or learning,” said Matthew Bronfman, a board member of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which commissioned the study. “If we wait another generation before you start trying to take remedial action, I think we’re really going to be behind the eight ball.”

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Posted in Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, History, Judaism, Poland, Religion & Culture, Sociology, Violence

(Christian Today) Bishop and senior clergyman join calls for Church of England to lose equalities exemptions

The Church of England should lose its protections under the Equalities Act that allow it to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexuality, a bishop and senior clergyman have said today.

Paul Bayes, the bishop of Liverpool, and David Ison, the dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, both backed Jeremy Pemberton, a…priest who was blocked from being a hospital chaplain after marrying his [same-sex] partner.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture