Category : Religion & Culture

(Telegraph) Prime Minister May: The Church should ‘reflect’ on allowing same-sex couples to marry

The Church of England should “reflect” on allowing same-sex couples to marry in church, the Prime Minister has said.

Theresa May also said her father, the Reverend Hubert Brasier, would have supported church blessings for gay couples.

In an interview for radio station LBC, the Prime Minister said she believed her father “very much valued the importance of relationships of people affirming those relationships and of seeing stability in relationships and people able to be together with people that they love”.

Asked whether she herself would like to see the law “evolve” she said it “had to be a matter for the Church”, adding: “the Church of England has itself come a distance in terms of looking at these issues, and obviously they will want to reflect as attitudes will generally change as society changes.”

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NPR) To Understand How Religion Shapes America, Look To Its Early Days

America’s exceptional commitment to religious freedom stems from the diversity of its faith traditions. The rebellious attitudes prevalent in frontier settlements fostered the growth of evangelical movements. African slaves introduced Islam to America. The drive to abolish slavery was led largely by Christian preachers.

“We can’t tell the story of America without telling the story of religion,” Manseau says, “and we can’t answer questions about the importance of religion today without going back to earlier generations.”

Manseau’s appointment as curator and his inaugural Religion in Early America exhibit signal “the beginning of a renewed engagement with the role of religion in American history,” according to John L. Gray, the museum director. Each of the objects in Manseau’s exhibit adds a special dimension to the larger narrative.

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

([London] Times) Muslim same-sex marriage is thriving, says drag queen Asifa Lahore

There have been “countless” same-sex marriages between gay and lesbian Muslims, Britain’s first Muslim drag queen says.

According to Asifa Lahore, 34, the country has a “thriving” Muslim LGBT community.

Ms Lahore was brought up in west London by a devout Muslim family with a Pakistani background. She was born Asif Quraishi and married another gay man of Pakistani heritage in July 2014, months after same-sex marriages were permitted in March that year.

Ms Lahore appeared on Channel 4’s Muslim Drag Queens in 2015, billed as Britain’s first Muslim drag performer. She began the process of gender transition to become a woman this year.

She spoke to The Times about her same-sex wedding after Jahed Choudhury, 24, claimed last week that his wedding to Sean Rogan, 19, at a register office in Walsall last month was the first same-sex marriage in the UK involving a Muslim. “There are countless,” Ms Lahore said. “In the last three years I’ve been to dozens of gay Muslim, same-sex marriages. I attended one last Thursday, of two gay British Bangladeshi guys.

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

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, England / UK, History, Islam, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(WGBH) Boston Posters Produced to Fight Against abuse of Islamic citizens generates Discussion

The cartoon guide recommends that the bystander engage in non-confrontational behavior to diffuse a potentially unsafe situation for the person being harassed. It shows the bystander choosing to sit next to a woman in a hijab who initially appeared uncomfortable around a man leaning toward her on the bus.

The cartoon’s author, Maeril, encouraged onlookers to use the guide not only for diffusing Islamophobic harassment, but for any other type of harassment as well. Suzan El-Rayess, the civic engagement director at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, agreed.

“We encourage all of our fellow Bostonians to apply the approach in these posters to anyone targeted — whether Muslim, Latino or otherwise,” El-Rayess told the AP.

Elise Whitney, 28, thought that the poster may have the opposite intended effect and attract more unwanted attention toward hijab wearers.

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

Neil Young–“Evangelical” Is Not a Political Term-a review of The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances FitzGerald

As the wide swath of American evangelicalism becomes increasingly flattened into the Christian Right and its opponents, the vibrancy and vitality that marked the first half of The Evangelicals steadily lessens. FitzGerald devotes lengthy sections to events like Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial and the 2008 Republican primaries, but such explorations highlight how much of the lived experience of modern evangelicalism is missing. Aside from Pentecostalism, evangelical worship receives scant attention yet it is significant how much the worship experience has changed for conservative Protestants over the last 50 years. Beginning with the Jesus People in the 1960s and soon spreading through the burgeoning nondenominational churches of the West Coast, contemporary Christian music (CCM) and a relaxed worship style has remade Sunday services for all evangelicals, from Southern Baptists to Anglicans. Mainline Protestants have often tut-tutted the informality of evangelical worship, but the casualization of conservative churches has helped strengthen evangelical identity in part by further underscoring the basic evangelical premise that the Christian faith is not some Sunday morning ritual but an entire way of being.

FitzGerald comments that Joel Hunter grew his Northland Church in Orlando from 200 members to 5,000 in a decade (and more than 10,000 today) “because of its worship services.” (Hunter, it should be noted, is on the national advisory board of the Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, which publishes this journal.) His church’s stunning rate of growth is shared by hundreds of evangelical congregations around the country over the last thirty years, but FitzGerald dwells instead on Hunter’s un-conservative politics and his “challenge [of] the Christian right,” as if that is what has made him one of the most important names in contemporary evangelicalism.

At the close of her introduction to The Evangelicals, FitzGerald writes, “the Christian right no longer dominated evangelical discourse” by 2016. It’s a throwaway line, perhaps, but an entirely revealing one. The Christian Right—nor politics in general—has never dominated evangelical discourse. Imagining so betrays an inability (or unwillingness) to fully understand the complex and varied lives of American evangelicals and, importantly, what matters most to them. Even as an author of a recent history of the Christian Right, I would still stress how low nearly all evangelicals rank politics on their list of priorities. Instead, they pray for their children’s salvation and focus on their own spiritual development. They devote themselves to running their churches and participating in community Bible studies. They volunteer with local ministries and send spare dollars to relief work in Africa. They labor each day with the tension of being in this world but not of it. Evangelicals do all of this out of the desire not only to strengthen their personal faith but also with the hope that they might make some difference in their sphere of influence, however small it might be. For evangelicals, that is the real “struggle to shape America,” and it takes place far beyond the rare moments they find themselves in a voting booth in November.

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

(Globe+Mail) Quebec City Muslim community vows to continue fighting for rejected cemetery

In the aftermath of the bloody mosque shooting that took the lives of six Muslim men in Quebec City this year, Mohamed Kesri said he was struck by the outpouring of support and solidarity from fellow Quebeckers.

“The cards, the flowers, the visits to our mosque, the hugs. It was incredible,” he said. “We started to build closer relations. We felt encouraged about living side-by-side.”

On Monday, Mr. Kesri said he wondered where the spirit of kinship had gone, and how to repair it. A project to create a cemetery for Quebec City Muslims had been defeated by three votes in a referendum. Mr. Kesri, who spearheaded the project on behalf of the Centre culturel islamique de Québec, said he was disheartened but adamant about pursuing the fight.

“We will not give up,” he said on Monday. “It’s insane. Three votes. We speak for thousands of Muslims in Quebec City.”

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Posted in Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, Islam, Religion & Culture

(Touchstone) Bradley Anderson: Choosing the Good Portion–a review of Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option

At the heart of Dreher’s “Benedict Option” is a belief that the culture war is over and traditional Christianity has lost, decisively and permanently (for the practical purposes of anyone alive today). The tide has irrevocably turned. Not only will Christians in the future lack even passive support from a Western culture that until recently was dominated by unconscious but real remnants of Christian sensibilities, but we will be actively assaulted in ways that will make it difficult for a historically recognizable Christianity to
survive:

[W]e in the modern West are living under barbarism, though we do not recognize it. Our scientists, our judges, our princes, our scholars, and our scribes—they are at work demolishing the faith, the family, gender, even what it means to be human. Our barbarians have exchanged the animal pelts and spears of the past for designer suits and smartphones. (17)

The classification of traditional Christian teachings as bigotry and “hate speech,” the imposition of sweeping bureaucratic imperatives on sex and gender that are at odds with the entire preceding history of Christian thought, an increasingly aggressive intolerance in the educational system towards any views at odds with the new orthodoxies, and technological changes in reproduction that are happening without reflection, let alone debate—seeing all this and more, it is hard to argue forcefully with Dreher on this point.

His prescription: “Rather than wasting energy and resources fighting unwinnable political battles, we should instead work on building communities, institutions, and networks of resistance that can outwit, outlast, and eventually overcome the occupation.”

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Posted in Books, History, Religion & Culture

(Economist) 2 documentaries probe Myanmar’s religious strife between the Rohingya and Buddhists

Though these films neatly complement each other, they are being received rather differently. “The Venerable W.” was shown with pomp at Cannes, while “Sittwe” was banned from the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival in Yangon. This year’s edition was dedicated to Miss Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, with censors deeming the movie “religiously and culturally inappropriate”. Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, brands the decision as “ludicrous”. The ban, he explains, reveals the government’s authorities persistent bias against the Rohingya and the reluctance to present them as victims in any capacity. “The Rohingya have been put in a separate, untouchable category by the government, and any real discussion of their situation gets tarred with the same brush.”

“Sittwe” found an audience in Thailand instead. For Lia Sciortino Sumaryono, the director of Southeast Asia Junction, a non-profit organisation which hosted the screenings in Bangkok, the issue is relevant to the whole region. “Extremists movements are increasingly regionalised,” she says, pointing at the several contacts between extremist Buddhist networks in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and those of Islamist groups in the Philippines and Malaysia.

“The Venerable W.” and “Sittwe” offer some insight into a social and religious quagmire. Were the country open to talking meaningfully about relations between Buddhists and Muslims, the films could form part of the discussion. As it is not, acts of violence are likely to continue.

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Posted in Buddhism, History, Movies & Television, Myanmar/Burma, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Violence

(WSJ) Michael Ledeen–After 500 Years, an Italian Jewish Rebirth

Italian historians, archaeologists and anthropologists are hard at work to document the presence of Jews from ancient times into the early modern period. There is no lack of evidence, some of which dates back to the first century, following the Roman conquest of ancient Israel. Yet many museums are not aware of the considerable quantity of evidence they have in their archives and deposits. In recent years, Sicilian cities have begun to publish catalogs of this material, and I recently attended a public meeting in southeastern Sicily that featured professors and government officials intent on creating a tourist guide to Jewish Sicily, from Taormina to Siracusa and Noto.

It is hard to overstate the enthusiasm for the Jewish revival. Cooperative ventures between Italian and Israeli universities are under way. These efforts should produce new experts and new historical finds in the coming years. Such activities will be reinforced as other communities emulate the Catania model and new centers of Jewish life are created.

There is a lot of work to be done before the Italian Jewish revival is fully realized. Anti-Semites are particularly active in northern cities like Milan and Turin. The country is also a landing point for many Islamic immigrants, many of whom are openly anti-Semitic. Possible descendants of the old communities will want to formalize their faith by converting, and there is a shortage of rabbis qualified to do that. But in an era when European Jews are under siege, that’s not a bad problem to have.

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Posted in Italy, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(BBC) Why are Iraqi Christians facing deportation from US?

More than 100 Iraqi Christians in Michigan are fighting deportation after being arrested in an immigration crackdown ordered by the Trump administration.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Foreign Relations, Iraq, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Reuters) Egypt’s Coptic Christians to halt activities after security threat, sources say

Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Christians have been told by church leaders to cancel all events and activities outside churches in July because of a security threat, church and security sources said on Thursday.

The warning followed an attack in May by Islamic State on Copts traveling to a monastery in central Egypt that killed 29 people. A month earlier, 44 people were killed in bomb attacks at a cathedral and another church on Palm Sunday.

Sources said the warning was given to individual church leaders by a representative of the Coptic Orthodox Pope. Copts on trips or youth camps had been told to cut short their activities and return home early.

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Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

([London] Times) Islamist extremism funded by donations from public

Hundreds of thousands of pounds in small donations from within the UK are the main source of income for some Islamist extremist organisations, according to a secret government report.

Extremists are also posing as charities to solicit donations from unwitting British Muslims who give because of the emphasis their faith puts on charity.

The report found that “significant” amounts of money were being channelled from overseas to a few groups and that overseas support has helped to fund preachers with deeply conservative views of Islam who operate in Islamic institutions in the UK.

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Posted in Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(The Goodbook) Sam Allberry–Same sex relationships: should we just agree to disagree?

Not taking a side on this issue is to take a side. To decide it is a matter of indifference is to risk having Jesus against you. Read the description of him in Revelation 1 and consider if you would ever want to risk that Jesus being against you.

This is a gospel issue. When so-called evangelical leaders argue for affirmation of gay relationships in the church, I’m not saying they’re not my kind of evangelical, I’m saying they are no kind of evangelical. This is not an easy position to hold, for I have friends who hold to different views on this subject. But it is the right position to hold. For the five reasons given above, we must never allow ourselves to think of this as just another issue Christians are free to differ over.

This will inevitably bring faithful Christians into conflict with our culture. When John Stott first published Issues Facing Christians Today, he said:

“I have sought with integrity to submit to the revelation of yesterday within the realities of today. It is not easy to combine loyalty to the past with sensitivity to the present. Yet this is our Christian calling: to live under the Word in the world.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CT) Actually, Eugene Peterson Does Not Support Same-Sex Marriage

A day after a Religion News Service interview portrayed retired pastor and author Eugene Peterson as shifting to endorse same-sex marriage, the evangelical leader retracted his comment and upheld the traditional Christian stance instead.

“To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything,” he said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

Peterson, best known for creating The Message Bible, also regrets the “confusion and bombast” in the fallout of his remarks, which were widely shared and commented on online yesterday.

Peterson stated:

Recently a reporter asked me whether my personal opinions about homosexuality and same-sex marriage have changed over the years. I presume I was asked this question because of my former career as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), which recently affirmed homosexuality and began allowing its clergy to perform same-sex weddings. Having retired from the pastorate more than 25 years ago, I acknowledged to the reporter that I “haven’t had a lot of experience with it.”
To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

Four Years Ago today–A Look back to Marriage and the Anglican Church of Canada

I do remember how many folk on the other side of the argument about 10 or so years ago were at pains to point out this was about blessings, not marriage–marriage was not going to be touched. We were not fooled by that, even then.

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Posted in Anglican Church of Canada, Canada, Church History, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture