Category : Multiculturalism, pluralism

(WSJ) A Debate over American Religious Liberty Between David French and Marci Hamilton

Justice Samuel Alito asked President Barack Obama’s solicitor general Donald Verrilli, Jr. whether constitutional recognition for same-sex marriage would lead to stripping federal tax exemptions from religious colleges that oppose gay marriage, in the same way that federal law strips tax exemptions from colleges that oppose interracial marriage or interracial dating. Rather than immediately answering “no,” Mr. Verrilli said, “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”

And just like that, millions of American Christians could easily and quickly imagine a future where the law held their traditional, orthodox religious beliefs—the beliefs of the Catholic Church and every significant evangelical denomination in America—in the same regard as it held the views of vile racists. But Christians who had been paying attention knew of this risk well before Obergefell. Christians who had been paying attention had seen a trend where legal activists at all levels of government had been aggressively expanding their regulatory and ideological attacks on religious liberty.

During my legal career defending free speech and religious freedom on campus, I saw more than 100 colleges attempt to de-recognize Christian student groups or eject them from campus for reserving their membership or leadership for Christian students. During the Obama administration, Americans watched his Department of Health and Human Services try to force nuns to facilitate access to contraceptives and abortifacients. Catholic adoption agencies that continued to place children with families according to church teachings faced a choice between closing and violating their deeply held beliefs. Christian creative professionals faced ruinous financial penalties for refusing to use their artistic talents to celebrate events they found offensive.

The list could go on, but more disturbing than the individual cases is the deep inversion of America’s constitutional principles that has empowered this legal assault. If governments ultimately prevail in these efforts, the resulting precedents would upend the constitutional order, rendering religious Americans even more vulnerable to future legal attacks, like the threatened loss of tax exemptions for Christian educational institutions.

The Constitution (including the Bill of Rights and the amendments passed in the wake of the Civil War) renders operational and enforceable the founding declaration that Americans “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” which include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” These core American liberties include rights to due process, free speech, assembly and the free exercise of religion. Every other American law—whether a federal statute, state constitutional provision, state law or university regulation—is subordinate to and subject to review under this Bill of Rights.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(PS) Peter Singer–Rugby Australia’s “Own Goal”

If Rugby Australia had existed in the first century of the Christian era, and Paul had had enough talent to be a contracted player, Rugby Australia would presumably have ripped up his contract once his letter to the Corinthians became public. That makes it quite bizarre that Castle should have justified [Israel] Folau’s dismissal by saying, “People need to feel safe and welcomed in our game regardless of their gender, race, background, religion, or sexuality.” Did she mean that you can feel welcomed in rugby, regardless of your religious beliefs, as long as you don’t express them in public? That looks a lot like telling homosexuals that they can do what they want in the privacy of their bedroom, but they must not show their affection in public because some people might find it offensive.

As this example shows – and as John Stuart Mill argued in his classic On Liberty – once we allow, as a ground for restricting someone’s freedom of speech or action, the claim that someone else has been offended by it, freedom is in grave danger of disappearing entirely. After all, it is very difficult to say anything significant to which no one could possibly take offense. Mill had in mind restrictions imposed by the state, but when employers dismiss employees who make controversial utterances, that is also a threat to freedom of expression – especially when the employer has a monopoly on the employment of workers with special skills, as Rugby Australia does.

Rugby Australia would have a stronger basis for its decision if Folau’s post had expressed hatred toward homosexuals and could have been interpreted as an incitement to violence against them. But the post no more expresses hatred toward homosexuals than cigarette warnings express hatred toward smokers.

If that analogy seems implausible, that’s because you do not take Folau’s beliefs seriously. Granted, for anyone outside that particular faith, it’s hard to take such beliefs seriously. But try putting yourself in the position of someone with Folau’s beliefs. You see people on a path toward a terrible fate – much worse than getting lung cancer, because death will not release them from their agony – and they are blind to what awaits them. Wouldn’t you want to warn them, and give them the chance to avoid that awful fate? I assume that is what Folau believes he is doing. He even tells homosexuals that Jesus loves them, and calls on them to repent so that they can avoid burning in hell for eternity. That doesn’t sound like hate speech.

What should Rugby Australia have done about Folau’s post? It might have just said that people are entitled to express their religious beliefs, and that would have been the end of the story….

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Philosophy, Religion & Culture, Sports

(1st Things) Wilfred McClay: Postmodern Times

[Gene] Veith, who is a Missouri Synod Lutheran (and Professor of English at Concordia University in Wisconsin), has produced in Postmodern Times a more refined and cautious, but no less suggestive, contribution to the Schaeffer tradition of theologically informed cultural analysis. Hence, although the book will certainly be of interest to scholars, its subtitle suggests a different audience: reflective Protestants who want to understand what the apparent collapse of modernism may mean for the culture, for the Church, and for themselves as Christians.

Veith’s answer to these concerns is optimistic, but very cautiously so. The modernist worldview, with its “totalized” enlightened faith in secular, rationalistic, naturalistic, materialistic, and demystified modes of explanation for all things, has by and large been the sworn enemy of Christian orthodoxy. So modernism’s slow but inexorable loss of authority at the hands of physicists, philosophers of science, literary theorists, and others would seem to be a welcome development. But Veith warns that the secular ideology of postmodernism will eventually be every bit as hostile to Christianity as modernism was, and perhaps more so. Why? Because Christians have one thing in common with modernists: both believe in the possibility of intelligible absolute truths. Therefore both are guilty, in the eyes of postmodernists, of the sin of “universal or totalizing discourse,” the distrust of which is the hallmark of postmodernism.

Read it all from 1994.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

Some Brave Scholars say the love of truth+the desire to attain it should motivate you to think for yourself

We are scholars and teachers at Princeton, Harvard, and Yale who have some thoughts to share and advice to offer students who are headed off to colleges around the country. Our advice can be distilled to three words:

Think for yourself.

Now, that might sound easy. But you will find—as you may have discovered already in high school—that thinking for yourself can be a challenge. It always demands self-discipline and these days can require courage.

In today’s climate, it’s all-too-easy to allow your views and outlook to be shaped by dominant opinion on your campus or in the broader academic culture. The danger any student—or faculty member—faces today is falling into the vice of conformism, yielding to groupthink.

At many colleges and universities what John Stuart Mill called “the tyranny of public opinion” does more than merely discourage students from dissenting from prevailing views on moral, political, and other types of questions. It leads them to suppose that dominant views are so obviously correct that only a bigot or a crank could question them….

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Politics in General, Young Adults

(NSS Blog) It’s time for an end to special religious privileges: we need a secular state

Taken together the CORAB recommendations are completely at odds with the realities of twenty-first century life in Britain. At a time when the majority of the British population belongs to no religion at all, proposals to extend the public role of faith amount to little more than an attempt to shore-up the crumbling towers of unwarranted religious privilege.

And while secularism is often presented as involving a curtailment of religious freedom, as an authoritarian attempt to force religion out of public life and to impose a particular (usually non-religious) worldview, the reality is that a secular state ”“ by distancing itself from all systems of religion or belief ”“ provides the best possible framework for guaranteeing equality for all citizens, and the best means of fostering a free, inclusive and democratic society in which people of all faiths and none can live harmoniously together.

The recommendations of the CORAB report, which defends and promotes religious privilege, are a recipe for increasing unfairness and division. Our response highlights the critical need for secular voices to be heard

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, History, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Secularism, Theology

(CT) Evangelical Experts Oppose Trump’s Plan to Ban Refugees

Despite previous plans to admit the highest number of refugees in decades, the United States would be shutting its doors to thousands displaced by conflict in the Middle East””at least temporarily””under an executive order President Donald Trump is expected to sign this week.

Christian aid groups responsible for resettlement mourned and criticized the impending decision to stop accepting any refugees into the US for the next four months. A circulating draft of the order puts an indefinite ban on refugees coming from Syria, and a month-long pause on anyone entering America from a handful of Muslim-majority nations.

“Our concern is that this action really does further traumatize a group of people that have already borne so much tragedy,” said Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, one of nine agencies that partner with the federal government to resettle refugees. “The human toll is really crushing.”

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Office of the President, Other Churches, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(BBC) Queen's chaplain resigns over Glasgow cathedral Koran row

One of the Queen’s chaplains has resigned after a row about reading from the Koran in a Glasgow church.
The Reverend Gavin Ashenden, a senior clergyman in the Church of England, left his position as chaplain in order to be free to criticise the move.
A passage from the Koran was read during an Epiphany service at St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow earlier this month.
Mr Ashenden said the reading had caused “serious offence”.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Books, Christology, Church of England (CoE), Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Ministry of the Ordained, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Scottish Episcopal Church, Theology

Peter Ould–Why The Cathedral Quran Reading Deserved Its Rebuke

And so we come to the final apologia for Kelvin Holdsworth’s mistake, again from his sermon yesterday: “Nobody at that service that night could be in any doubt that we proclaimed the divinity of Christ and preached the Gospel of God’s love.”

Well yes, you possibly did recite the Nicene Creed at some point after its key verses were repudiated, but saying that makes the heresy before it OK is like saying that if you deliver a devastating uppercut to a stranger walking down the street, handing him a plaster afterwards makes it OK.

This story hasn’t gone away despite the best efforts of the Provost to say nothing, to say he’ll say something and then say nothing, to ignore his boss, to ignore the sensible, cogent, important theological questions that even the head of the Episcopal Church of Scotland accepts are perfectly valid.

In ministry, or indeed any position of responsibility, the sooner you learn the lesson that it’s better when you’re caught red-handed to admit a mistake and ask for forgiveness than to try and defend an indefensible corner, the better.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Books, Christology, England / UK, Islam, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Scotland, Scottish Episcopal Church, Theology

Gavin Ashenden's ltr in the [London] Times about the Koran Reading in the Scottish Cathedral

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Christology, England / UK, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Scotland, Scottish Episcopal Church, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Scottish Primus David Chillingworth's Statement regarding the Koran reading in St Mary’s Cathedral

“The decisions which have led to the situation in St Mary’s Cathedral are a matter for the Provost and the Cathedral community but the Scottish Episcopal Church is deeply distressed at the widespread offence which has been caused. We also deeply regret the widespread abuse which has been received by the Cathedral community.

“In response to what has happened at the Cathedral, the Scottish Episcopal Church will bring together all those who are involved in the development of interfaith relations. Our intention will be as a Church to explore how, particularly in the area of worship, this work can be carried forward in ways which will command respect. Our desire is that this should be a worthy expression of the reconciliation to which all Christians are called.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Books, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Scottish Episcopal Church, Theology

(CT Gleanings) British Government Affirms Christmas at Work

British officials are encouraging the country to put Christ back in Christmas””even in their workplaces.
“There are a lot of myths out there when it comes to dealing with religion at work. I want to put the record straight: It is OK to hold a party and send Christmas cards,” said David Isaac, chairman of the national Equality and Human Rights Commission.
This week, Christians and politicians alike welcomed Isaac’s assurance following the growing prevalence of more generic terminology in public and office celebrations, such as “season’s greetings” and “Winterval.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Whos on Which Side of the Lunch Counter? Civil Rights, Religious Accommodation+Diversity Challenges

Perhaps progressives hope and expect that, under the heavy weight of the law, traditionalists will abandon their religious conviction that sexual relations should be confined to marriage between a man and a woman. If that is the expectation, then the project would appear to be one in suppression or elimination: disagreements about marriage and sexuality should be eliminated by using law to make one side disappear.

More commonly, though, what we hear from the progressive side is that the Christian florist and photographer and marriage counselor are still free to retain their private religious convictions about marriage. They simply cannot act on those convictions while carrying on the business of florist or photographer or counselor. Such religious commitments should be left behind when the believer enters the public square. If a believer is unwilling or unable to make that sacrifice, then she should stay at home or find some other line of work.

This position is overtly segregationist in its strategy for dealing with religious diversity. Those who take this view are analogous to the 1960s segregationist who said, “Of course there’s a place for you: it just isn’t here (in this school, or this section of the bus, or this end of the lunch counter).” In that respect, it is the contemporary progressive, not the Christian florist or photographer, who is the faithful heir of Jim Crow.

Read it all from Professor Steven Smith at PD.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

([London] Times) Most Muslims want full integration with British way of life

More than half of British Muslims want to “fully integrate” with society, according to the most extensive survey of its kind.

Research involving more than 3,000 Muslims shows that they broadly share the views and priorities of the wider population, rather than being shaped by supposedly “Islamic” concerns. Ninety-three per cent feel a fairly or very strong attachment to Britain and are likely to identify the NHS, unemployment and immigration as the biggest issues facing the country.

British Muslims were more likely than the general population to condemn terrorism, the survey by ICM and Policy Exchange, the right-of-centre think tank, found. They were also more likely to give credence to conspiracy theories that the United States government or Jewish influences were behind the September 11 attacks.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sociology, Theology

(BBC) Bloomington, Indiana, changes the name of "Good Friday" to "Spring Holiday"

The US city of Bloomington in Indiana has renamed Good Friday and Columbus Day as “Spring Holiday” and “Fall Holiday” to be more “inclusive”.
Mayor John Hamilton said the move would “better reflect cultural sensitivity in the workplace”, local media said.
Bloomington is a traditionally liberal city. Its county gave Hillary Clinton 58.6% in the presidential election.
But the move sparked a backlash on social media, with opponents condemning it as an act of political correctness.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(1st Things) Benjamin Myers–The Sentimentality Trap

Don’t get me wrong. I agree with Ted Kooser, who argues in his excellent Poetry Home Repair Manual that it is far better to risk being sentimental than it is to accept a dry, emotionless kind of poetry. I sometimes think, in fact, that the closer one gets to sentimentality without actually giving in to it, the better. Or to put that in terms more in tune with what I have been arguing, it is a great accomplishment in a poem to take content that is very close to a common emotional experience that can easily be sentimentalized but render it with a depth of feeling and attention to the particular that is entirely unsentimental.

I can immediately think of two great poems that do just that. The first is Robert Hayden’s classic “Those Winter Sundays,” a portrait of an emotionally distant father, but which starts

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

It ends, “What did I know, what did I know / of love’s austere and lonely offices?” This poem could easily have focused on the coziness of the fire, or painted an unmixed and all-admiring portrait of the father. Alternately, it could have railed like a cardboard Sylvia Plath against the evils of patriarchy. But instead, Hayden took the tougher road of telling us about his particular father and their relationship, and in that particularity there is a power to impart universal truth about the complexity of family relationships, something no sentimental poem can achieve.

The other poem that springs to mind is Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “Spring and Fall.” The images are fresh and striking in their particularity: “Goldengrove unleaving” and “worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie.” (The fantastic sound certainly doesn’t hurt either.)

Once the Christian reader has dined on poetic fare as rich as this, how could he be satisfied with the thin gruel of sentimentality or with the hard biscuit of the cynical? Once we have known the sacred touch of real love, two made one flesh, both gift from God and image of his love for us, how could we ever again be content with poetic pornography?

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Philosophy, Poetry & Literature, Politics in General, Psychology, Theology

(Sightings) Russell Johnson–Google vs. ISIS and Freedom of Information

Much could be said about the Redirect Method, but two things stand out to me. First, as a philosopher of religion, I find [Yasmin] Green’s point fascinating. Regardless how one mixes the faith-and-reason cocktail, a theopolitical agenda like ISIS’s is undeniably still dependent upon information. People enlist in groups like ISIS not simply out of blind hate or misdirected zeal, but because they find ISIS’s description of the world reasonable and compelling. Green’s wording is suggestive: in “arming individuals with more and better information,” Google is acting on the assumption that facts may be as fatal to ISIS’s success as bullets. Google’s experiment rests on a perspective shared by many professors of religion; in Kofi Annan’s words, “Education is peace-building by another name.”

Second, this program raises the question of precedent. Though I doubt many net neutrality advocates will rally in support of ISIS, there is reason to be leery of Google’s self-appointed mission to steer users away from certain ideological stances. Given that the dream of the Internet is a pure democracy of information and opinion, do we trust Google to be the gatekeeper of theopolitical correctness? It’s one thing if I search for “crayons” and Google””after receiving a payment from Crayola””directs me to Crayola’s website. But what about topics far more controversial than my coloring hobby? How comfortable are we with the leading search engine employing “targeted advertising campaigns” on disputed religious and political matters?

The dilemma is this: everyone is pro-information, but we tend to see only the information that supports our particular worldview.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Terrorism, Theology

(9Marks) Os Guiness–The Shift from Authority to Preference””And Its Consequences for the Church

When such autonomous, free-choice consumerism washes over society from the shopping mall to the bedroom, the office and the ballot box, the result is predictable. What will be the price of obedience to authority, and what will be the respect accorded to principled dissent? Choice””unbounded autonomous, subjective sovereign individual choice””is the playboy king of consumerland, and with comfort and convenience as his closest courtiers and cronies, he now rules much of life. Authority and obedience are therefore banished together. They are the unwelcome spoilsports whose entry might ruin the fantasy game of infinite choices. The result is no surprise””a grave crisis of authority within the church, and a rash of positions and interpretations that in any clearer thinking generation would be frankly seen as the rejection of the authority of Jesus and the Scriptures that they are.

Evangelicals are especially vulnerable to this distortion of choice because of the exaggerated place they give to choice in the call to conversion. It may even be their Achilles’ heel. Whereas the Jews are the chosen people, so that their faith is their destiny, Evangelicals are a choosing people, and their faith is often merely their decision.

The step of faith is of course a choice, the most important and fully responsible choice a person ever makes. But when the overwhelming emphasis is put on choice as an act of decision, choosing becomes everything, but it can then suffer the fate of many modern choices and shrink to being lightweight, changeable, and nonbinding. Choice and change are close companions, and those who decide for a faith because they choose to believe it can as easily defect from the faith when they choose not to.

Contrast this modern casualness with the early church’s deep theology surrounding conversion.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Apologetics, History, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Heads up Abt a Conference Next Month in Charleston SC-Listen+Speak: Conversations in Faith+Culture

Culture has changed dramatically in the past century as Christendom has given way to secularism and pluralism. This new reality has now arrived in the urban south. We must ask if Christianity has anything to say in response. Join us for Listen & Speak as we discuss a Christian posture towards culture. Featuring pastor and author Scott Sauls and storyteller Andrew Peterson.

You can check out the website there and you can register here.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Adult Education, Apologetics, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology

A very important Lionel Shriver Op-ed in the NYT–"Now the role of oppressor has passed to the left"

When I was growing up in the ’60s and early ’70s, conservatives were the enforcers of conformity. It was the right that was suspicious, sniffing out Communists and scrutinizing public figures for signs of sedition.

Now the role of oppressor has passed to the left. In Australia, where I spoke, Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to do or say anything likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate,” providing alarming latitude in the restriction of free speech. It is Australia’s conservatives arguing for the amendment of this law.

As a lifelong Democratic voter, I’m dismayed by the radical left’s ever-growing list of dos and don’ts ”” by its impulse to control, to instill self-censorship as well as to promote real censorship, and to deploy sensitivity as an excuse to be brutally insensitive to any perceived enemy. There are many people who see these frenzies about cultural appropriation, trigger warnings, micro-aggressions and safe spaces as overtly crazy. The shrill tyranny of the left helps to push them toward Donald Trump.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Philosophy, Politics in General, Psychology, Theology

([London] Sunday Times) Only Christianity is made to bear the cross of public ridicule

I meet all sorts in my job. You might say it’s a broad church. A few weeks back I was on another shoot when, during a break, the talk got around to religion. In these interesting times, it often does.

Eventually someone mentioned “believing in the sky fairy”, and there was general approval, a bit of laughter. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t much fussed. Generally speaking I’m in favour of a secular society, one without a state-sanctioned religion and where everyone minds a polite responsibility to go quietly about their business and not bother the neighbours with strongly held opinions on the matter of belief.

The sky fairy comment, as it happens, was in response to a general point someone made about the Anglican church ”” and this sort of thing is absolutely commonplace. Remembering to treat Christianity with unbridled contempt is an entry-level requirement for most modern conversations about religion in Britain.

Read it all from Neil Oliver (requires subscription).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

Massachusetts: Churches may be covered by transgender discrimination bans as to ”˜secular events’

From the official Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination’s Gender Identity Guidance, just released last week:

Even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.

Now, churches hold events “open to the general public” all the time ”” it’s often how they seek new converts. And even church “secular events,” which I take it means events that don’t involve overt worship, are generally viewed by the church as part of its ministry, and certainly as a means of the church modeling what it believes to be religiously sound behavior.

Read it all from Euguene Volokh at the Washington Post.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(538) Daniel Cox–Religious Diversity May Be Making America Less Religious

In the United States, diversity has generally been considered an asset. It is frequently cited by public figures as both a source of national pride and a worthy ambition. It is an oft-stated goal of Fortune 500 companies, private colleges and entire sectors of the U.S. economy. And even if Americans don’t claim much diversity in their own social networks, few believe that our differences are not something to be celebrated. At one point it was even argued that America’s religious vitality hinged on its diversity ”” greater competition between places of worship would contribute to a more vibrant religious culture. However, new evidence suggests that religious pluralism could work in the opposite direction ”” undermining the vitality of America’s religious communities.

This is not a new debate, but it’s more relevant than ever. The American religious landscape is transforming rapidly. At one time, religious diversity meant: Baptist, Methodist and Episcopalian. Today, it encompasses a multiplicity of religious traditions such as Sikhism, Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism, as well as an increasing variety of noninstitutional belief systems such as humanism, skepticism, atheism and subjective spirituality. Racial and ethnic shifts have also changed the face of Christianity. The U.S. was once a predominantly white Christian country, but fewer than half of Americans (45 percent) identify as white Christian today.

We don’t know for sure that America’s religious pluralism is causing a drop in religious vitality ”” there are reasons to think the two might simply be related ”” but there are a number of different ways diversity might erode commitment.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., History, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Sociology, Theology

(Archbp C) is EU Court moving toward a ban on Christians wearing crosses in the workplace?

This isn’t the headline in most of the UK media, for some reason, which appears to prefer singling out Muslims and hijabs. There’s nothing quite like a bit of Islamomania in a morning to go with your toast and marmalade, is there? ”˜Top EU court adviser backs workplace Muslim headscarf ban”˜, says the BBC. ”˜EU’s top judge backs workplace ban on headscarves”˜, writes the Independent. ”˜Senior EU lawyer backs workplace ban on Muslim headscarves”˜, proclaims the Guardian., above a picture of Muslim women wearing sky-blue burqas (which the Guardian calls a ”˜headscarf’) emblazoned with the stars of the EU flag. ”˜Top European Union court adviser says employers should be allowed to ban Islamic headscarves”˜, says the Evening Standard, while the Express goes with: ”˜Bosses can ban Muslims wearing headscarves at work”˜.

It’s left to the Telegraph to take a more equitable and accurate approach to headlines: ”˜Bosses can ban headscarves and crucifixes, EU judge says”˜, they write (noting that ”˜crucifix’ sounds a bit meatier than ”˜cross’ in the spectrum of hallowed bling). But even this doesn’t extend to kippahs, tichels, turbans or karas. Why not just say: ”˜Bosses can ban religious clothing and jewellery in the workplace’? Or does that leave hanging the fuzzy question of facial hair? Should hirsute tendencies be exempt? If so, why?

The legal opinion (HERE in full) was issued by Juliane Kokott, an Advocate General to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), in response to clarification sought by a Belgian court on what precisely is banned under anti-discrimination laws, following the dismissal of a receptionist who refused her employer’s request not to wear her hijab at work.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Why a rabbi’s call for old-fashioned altruism is a rare religious voice

A distinguished man of religion stood up on May 26th in one of London’s most prestigious locations. He urged his listeners (who were mostly co-religionists, but also included great-and-good figures from many other faiths) to ponder some of the dilemmas of our times: for example, should society’s future direction be left to the free interplay of goods and ideas, or should the state take the leading role in healing our collective wounds? The answer, he concluded, was both approaches were deeply flawed. Neither the market nor the state would save the Western world unless its citizens rediscovered a sense of the common good rooted in deep cultural memories.

What’s so unusual about any of that, you might ask. Isn’t that the kind of stuff you would expect a religious leader to say? Actually, it is rather unusual for a Western champion of faith to strike that note in a public forum, and the interesting question is why.

As it turns out, the religious leader in question featured in Erasmus quite recently, but his receipt of one of philanthropy’s most renowned awards (the Templeton Prize, which acknowledges those who “affirm life’s spiritual dimension”) seems a good enough reason to mention him again. He is Lord Jonathan Sacks, a former chief rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth and prolific author, most recently on religion and violence.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology, Violence

(NYT On Religion) Evangelists Adapt to a New Era, Preaching the Gospel to Skeptics

Mr. Ellis, 39, welcomed the dozen men and women seated before him. “This is a space,” he said, “for people who consider themselves non-Christian and are coming in from the outside.”

His weekly sessions, called the WS Café in a reference to the neighborhood, are at a new frontier of evangelism, one that seeks converts among a fervent and growing number of atheists in this country. The sessions started in September as a push by Redeemer Presbyterian’s prominent pastor, the Rev. Tim Keller, to preach the gospel to skeptics.

Such efforts proceed amid a rare moment in both Christian and American history. At the origin of Christianity, its apostles sought to convert adherents of other faiths, whether Judaism or Roman paganism. Missionaries of the last few centuries journeyed to China or Africa or the Americas to encounter the followers of other faiths, whether Buddhist or Yoruba or Aztec. In every case, the Christian evangelist seeking converts was at least dealing with listeners who embraced the concept of a divine being involved in the world.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Apologetics, Evangelicals, Evangelism and Church Growth, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology, Urban/City Life and Issues

John Piper–Should Christians Tolerate False Religious Beliefs?

Now the new tolerance does not start with the assumption that there is such a thing as objective truth or objective right and wrong or objective beauty and ugliness. And, therefore, it does not start with the assumption that any given viewpoint or belief is objectively better than one that believes something different, because there is no objective truth or morality out there for an idea to conform to. And so the old tolerance becomes impossible. Tolerance no longer means defending a person’s freedom to tell me I am wrong, but now means renouncing the right to tell anyone they are wrong. The very concept of labeling a person’s idea as wrong or defective or harmful or evil is considered intolerant.

So the new tolerance is the requirement that nobody pass judgment on another person’s beliefs or ideas as less true, less right, less beautiful. And the reason I say this is a new form of intolerance is that in the new tolerance I am forbidden from expressing my belief that certain things are so; namely, that your beliefs are wrong or harmful ”” dangerous. In fact, the new tolerance sometimes goes so far as not just to forbid the expression of my belief that your belief is wrong, but goes further and forbids me even from believing that you are wrong because, they would say, believing that shows I am hateful and a danger to society and eventually may be locked away or punished in some other way for simply holding a viewpoint. If you want to read more about the development of this new tolerance, then Don Carson’s book The Intolerance of Tolerance is the place to go.

So my answer to the question that was asked is: Absolutely, Christians should be tolerant of other people’s religious beliefs; namely, with the old tolerance, not the new tolerance.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Apologetics, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(Church Times) Butler-Sloss Report–”˜New settlement needed to overhaul public life’

Imams and rabbis in the House of Lords; non-Anglican representation at the next coronation ceremony; the abolition of the requirement for schools to hold an act of worship; less selection of pupils by religion for faith schools; and humanists on Thought for the Day are among the recommendations in a new report on religion in public life, published on Monday.

The 104-page document Living With Difference: Community, diversity and the common good makes dozens of recommendations, and suggests an overhaul of British institutions and culture, from the BBC to counter-terrorism strategy, to ensure that the diversity of religious belief in the UK is properly represented.

The report is the result of two years’ work by the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, which was set up by the interfaith Woolf Institute. It has heard more than 200 submissions since summer last year

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

BBC's Caroline Wyatt–We should do God, says report into religion in public life

It is a report that accurately reflects the anxiety and uncertainty about national identity that many now feel over how rapidly the UK has changed over the past 30 years, although it may well perhaps irritate both secularists and Christians who feel their voice has been marginalised.

What is indisputable is that we are now part of a globalised, interconnected and increasingly unsettled world in which the disputes within and between religions in other nations – from the Middle East to Africa and Asia – are reflected back into the UK, sometimes creating or exacerbating tensions between different communities here.

The commission’s conclusion is that how the UK responds to those changes will have a profound impact on public life, with education at all levels and dialogue between faiths and those of no faith both crucial components of that response.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Gillian Scott–The Paris Attacks are a reminder of Uncomfortable Truths

The truth is that the majority of Muslims are law abiding people who are horrified by the slaughter of innocents in Paris as much as anyone else. The truth though is also that all religions are not the same. We cannot separate Islam from the current crisis we face. We might like to think that it is possible to shoehorn all Islamic practice and theology into a culture of Judeo-Christian human rights, but it is not that simple. A poll earlier this year found that 3 in 10 Muslims think that their faith is incompatible with British values. Other surveys in recent years have found large minorities in favour of introducing Sharia law to the UK or that killing in the name of religion is justified. Our government is spending £40m a year on its Prevent strategy trying to stop the radicalisation of some of our Muslims in a way that our mosques are unable to do.

In an open and genuinely tolerant society, we should be able to ask the difficult questions of others with different views and beliefs and expect a productive dialogue that builds understanding and agreement. Instead we pussyfoot around too scared to criticise aspects of the Islamic faith in a way that we freely do with Christianity, for fear of being accused of Islamaphobia or racism or both.

Read it all and follow the links from the Archbishop Cranmer blog.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–Ghosts in a Secular Age

But the Elle essay suggests yet another understanding of how secularism interacts with spiritual experience. In this scenario, the key feature of the secular world-picture isn’t that it requires people to reinterpret their numinous experiences as strictly psychological events; it’s simply that it discourages people who have such experiences from embracing any kind of systematic (that is, religious/theological) interpretation of what’s happened to them, and then as a corollary discourages them from seeking out a permanent communal space (that is, a religious body) in which to further interact with these ultimate realities. Under secularism, in other words, most people who see a ghost or have a vision or otherwise step into the supernatural are still likely to believe in the essential reality of their encounter with the otherworldly or transcendent; they’re just schooled to isolate the experience, to embrace it as an interesting (and often hopeful) mystery without letting it call them to the larger conversion of life that most religious traditions claim that the capital-S Supernatural asks of us in return.

What secularism really teaches people, in this interpretation, isn’t that spiritual realities don’t exist or that spiritual experiences are unreal. It just privatizes the spiritual, in a kind of theological/sociological extension of church-state separation, and discourages people from organizing either intellectual systems (those are for scientists) or communities of purpose (that’s what politics is for) around their sense, or direct experience, that Something More exists.

This interpretation ”“ which I think is clearly part of the truth of our time ”” has interesting implications for the future of religion in the West….what you see in the Elle piece is that in the absence of strong institutions and theological systems dedicated to the Mysteries, human beings and human society can still make sense of these experiences through informal networks, private channels, personalized interpreters. And to the extent that these informal networks succeed in satisfying the human hunger for interpretation, understanding and reassurance ”” as they seem to have partially satisfied Peter Kaplan’s widow ”” then secularism might be more resilient, more capable of dealing effectively with the incorrigibility of the spiritual impulse, than its more arid and strictly materialist manifestations might suggest.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, History, Marriage & Family, Multiculturalism, pluralism, Other Faiths, Parish Ministry, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Secularism, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology