Monday, August 02, 2004

Religious News Roundup for Monday, August 2nd

For once, it's a relatively brief list of headlines to bring you this morning.

I don't know, maybe God's trying to tell me something. Maybe, go out and practice your religion instead of writing about it?


Top story of the day, believe it or not, is the Vatican's latest assault on liberal sensibilities: a letter to Catholic bishops on the "Collaboration of Men and Women." I haven't had time to read the full document yet. Check back later today for an update when I've had a chance to digest it. In the meantime, you can find coverage here, here and here, and reaction here and here.

In other Catholic news, Bishop Robert F. Vasa of the Diocese of Baker, Oregon, is requiring lay ministers in the church to sign a statement indicating agreement with

a two-page "affirmation of faith." It tells lay ministers and cantors that, if they want to continue in their roles on the altar, they must accept the church's teachings opposing abortion, contraception, gay relationships and other issues.

Is this his right? Absolutely. Is it counterproductive? Absolutely. Various U.S. denominations have tried to create theological purity in their ranks over the years. Initially, it seems to work: members develop a firm sense of the identity of the church, and it grows. But over the long haul, such homogenity ends up alienating people, as it seems to have done already in this case. Perhaps it's just me and my UCC theology, but shouldn't the church be a place to talk about these issues, not a place to impose a particular viewpoint?

Another question: all this emphasis on the church position on social issues makes me wonder if Bishop Vasa doesn't have something better to do? Improve the finances of the diocese? Strengthen its CCD programs? Develop stronger safeguards against sexual abuse within the church?

I'm not being snarky here. First of all, I challenge the leadership of my own denomination when it seems like they're spending too much time on social issues and not enough on the life of the church. Second, all churches and denominations could stand to strengthen their hand when it comes to sexual abuse. There's no excuse for not giving the matter our very best.

The aftermath of the Democratic Convention continues to play out. The Boston Globe has a pretty decent article on how Democrats are "refusing to cede the religious vote." It's worthwhile, if for nothing else than its picture of a Muslim woman praying at an interfaith worship service as its lead illustration. On the other hand, The Revealer is right to notice that the article "reinforces both the legitimacy of the so-called 'God gap,' and the likelihood that we're in for another three months of discussing whether Kerry's made it across."

Meanwhile, the Associated Baptist Press talks to Jim Wallis about religion and the convention, Christianity Today has a more conservative response, and the Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson, the DNC's Senior Advisor for Religious Outreach makes her first post to Kicking Ass, the DNC blog. It's worth reading her post just for the proof that ministers can be cool enough to write for a website called "Kicking Ass." Some of us do, you know, and we take names while we're at it. But the more substantive reason to look at her statement is her "Prayer for People of Faith for John Kerry:"

God of love, grace, and comfort your people of many faiths are gathered here today to do your work of justice, prophecy and care for all of your children.

We give you thanks for your presence among us. We celebrate the beauty of your face when it reveals the full spectrum of color! We celebrate the sound of your voice when we hear it in any language.

Forgive us, God, when we arrogantly attempt to stigmatize, marginalize and homogenize your vast creation. Give us eyes to see that this diversity is your great, good gift to us.

We gather in this place and this time because we fully accept the role of stewards of this great nation. Our hearts fill with concern, but also with hope. With humility, we accept the task of electing leadership for our nation and, indeed, our world.

Grant us wisdom, Grant us courage -- for the living of these days.


(Funny side note: my first church was "Faith UCC," a place filled with Reagen Democrats. I'd be interested to see how many of them are going for Kerry this time around. Link via Chuck Currie.)

As we prepare for that other convention, you know, the one in New York? We might want to drop by Jesse Kornbluth's Beliefnet blog and join in his contest to write Jerry Falwell's invocation. As Jesse puts it, "sincerity is not exactly the point here."

You've probably already heard about the bombing of Christian churches in Iraq. Yes indeed, there are churches in Iraq, most of them belonging to ancient faiths. Between these attacks and similar ones in Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere, I'm concerned that Al Qaeda (or other Islamic fundamentalist groups) are still able to coordinate their efforts across Asia. I'm also worried that American fundagelicals--and the administration they apparently run--will take the bait hook, line, and sinker, and make some kind of rash statement about us being in a deathmatch with Islam, radical or otherwise. Developing, as Drudge says.

Update: the good news is that Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani has apparently condemned the bombings. One more reason to think he may be the sanest, most decent leader in Iraq these days.

The Ten Commandments monument, of Judge Roy Moore fame, is out and about, touring the U.S. Doubtless, it'll make a stop here in wild-eyed Lancaster. But first, it had somewhere else to visit:

About 75 people gathered to see the 5,280-pound granite monument outside the site of the Scopes Monkey Trial -- where high school teacher John Scopes was convicted in 1925 of giving lessons on evolution. Many stepped up a ladder to take photos and pose beside the marker.


More on Church & State/Politics issues: the St. Petersburg Times has a report (via The Revealer) about the stink raised when a Tampa city councilman invited an atheist to give the opening invocation at a council meeting. Let's just say the welcome was not warm. The Lancaster Sunday News discusses Ralph Reed's visit to the county to instruct local pastors on the fine points of political involvement. Funny, I wasn't invited.

All right, so this edition of RNR was as long as ever. Do you doubt that God is calling me to go outside and play for a while?


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