Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays

We here at Rhetoric Race and Religion wish all of you a very blessed holiday season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Christian Population

A comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds that there are 2.18 billion Christians of all ages around the world, representing nearly a third of the estimated 2010 global population of 6.9 billion. Christians are also geographically widespread – so far-flung, in fact, that no single continent or region can indisputably claim to be the center of global Christianity.

Read more here

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Second Volume of the Writings of Henry McNeal Turner Due January 2012

Dr. Andre E. Johnson is pleased to announce the publication of "An African American Pastor Before and During the American Civil War: The Literary Archive of Henry McNeal Turner, Vol 2; The Chaplain Writings" (Edwin Mellen Press, 2012). This is the second of a proposed 12 volume series that aims at collecting the letters, speeches, sermons and essays of Turner. Volume 2 consists of 38 writings while Turner served as a Chaplain during the American Civil War from 1863-1865.

Praise for the Volumes:

Dr. Andre E. Johnson’s scholarship on the life, work, and writings of The Henry McNeal Turner recovers an incredibly important aspect of African American history. It is always an important occasion when a scholar goes beyond the study of well known historical figures to re-introduce a leader who lived beyond the limits of current life memories, and whose efforts paved the way for current benefits. The volumes that will follow, document Turner’s contributions to history through his copious writings. Dr Johnson, a rhetorician, theologian, professor and pastor, is uniquely suited to edit volumes that will enhance our understanding of Turner’s work and the political, theological, and legal issues of the antebellum and reconstruction period.-Barbara A. Holmes, Professor of Ethics and African American Studies, Memphis Theological Seminary

In this collection of writings and speeches Dr. Andre E. Johnson opens up an aspect of American history that has been unavailable to scholars and general readers, the history of African Americans during the last half of the 19th-century and early 20th-century revealed through the mind of a southern black man. Johnson characterizes Henry McNeal Turner as a public intellectual of his time given the range of topics he addresses and the vast quantity of his published and unpublished writing. We see American history from an uncommon angle, from the point of view of a black man striving to find freedom and equality for all people of color in a society that condoned racism and racist practices.-Sandra Sarkela, Associate Professor of Communications, University of Memphis

Thank you ever so much for the new scholarship on a mainstay personality of the nineteenth century. McNeal Turner was an unusual and intellectually stalwart human being.This kind of research will be of use not only to historians but to literary critics and so many others not to mention people interested in his theology, his race insights even the ideas these volumes will lend to anyone wanting to do a psychoanalytic analysis of his work. Thank you ever so much for this.-prramsey@starpower.net

To get your paperback copy of the book, please click on the donate button below





Nina Shea on Religious Freedom

Threats to religious liberty are hitting close to home as a number of states and the federal government impose ideological mandates that restrict the free exercise of religion.

That said, the problems “faced by Christians, and others, in the U.S. pale beside what happens elsewhere, as documented by Paul Marshall and Nina Shea in their new book Silenced: How Apostasy & Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide.

In an interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez, Nina Shea offers a striking comparison between the state of religious freedom at home and abroad: “We don’t face death squads, torture or labor camps, as millions do elsewhere, so we should be careful in our rhetoric. At the same time, there are growing, dangerous restriction on religious freedom in the U.S., and more so in Europe, and we need to protest and fight them. We can do both, while not confusing their gravity.”

Read more here

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christianity Sees Major Shifts In 100 Years, Percentage Of Population Remains Constant

With Christmas fast approaching, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life published a new comprehensive demographic report on the size and distribution of the world’s Christian population. The study finds that there are 2.18 billion Christians of all ages in more than 200 countries around the world, representing nearly a third of the estimated 6.9 billion 2010 global population. Christians are so geographically widespread that no single continent or region can indisputably claim to be the center of global Christianity.

In 1910, two-thirds of the world’s Christians lived in Europe (according to historical data from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts). Today, the Pew study finds, only about a quarter of all Christians (26 percent) live in Europe (26 percent). A plurality — more than a third (37 percent) — now reside in the Americas. About one in every four Christians (24 percent) lives in sub-Saharan Africa and about one-in-eight (13 percent) is found in Asia and the Pacific.

Read the rest here

Saturday, December 17, 2011

How We All Pay For the Huge Tax Privileges Granted to Religion -- It's Time to Tax the Church

by Adam Lee
AlterNet

Would the world be better off without religion? That was the topic of a recent debate in the NYU Intelligence Squared series. One of the audience questions concerned the enormous wealth hoarded by churches, which Christian apologist Dinesh D'Souza defended as follows:
I think in the case of the Vatican, the wealth of the Vatican is in priceless treasures, tapestries, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, art. Now, let's remember... it was popes, the Medici popes and so on, who commissioned those paintings. If it wasn't for Catholicism, we wouldn't have the Sistine Chapel.

Read the rest here

Episcopal Church Divided Over Trinity’s Denial of Occupy

By ELIZABETH DRESCHER
Religion Dispatches

On Friday, Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, and Mark Sisk, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, issued separate letters in response to the ongoing conflict between members of the Occupy Wall Street movement and Trinity Episcopal Church, Wall Street, on whose property OWS has hoped to continue its occupation after having been evicted from Zuccotti Park in November.

Trinity Wall Street and the Episcopal Church are, it seems, trying to maintain a delicate balance in their approach to Occupy Wall Street, and their consistent ministry to participants in the movement is laudable. Their active chaplaincy, preaching, and material support has been a powerful reminder of the moral role that churches and other religious groups continue to play even as institutional religion becomes more and more irrelevant in everyday life. Indeed, Trinity Wall Street and many other Episcopal Church communities, have made clear that “being church” is much more than maintaining a building where fewer and fewer people gather to worship for an hour or so on Sundays. They have illustrated the Christian understanding of the call of the faithful to be Christ's body in the world throughout the Occupy protests, and this has made me proud to be an Episcopalian.

Read more here

Why Are African Americans So Religious?

Why the Modern President Can’t Belong to a Church

by Amy Sullivan
Time Magazine

The new internet era of politics has changed a lot of things about the way Presidents go about their daily lives. A stray comment captured on tape can instantly ricochet and cause havoc. Post-9/11 security concerns combined with the ability to find detailed information about virtually any location has made the already challenging job of protecting the President and his family even tougher. But the freedom to attend church and be part of a congregation while living at the White House may be the first true casualty of our new political age.


Last Sunday, the Obamas held hands to cross Lafayette Park and attended the 11 a.m. worship service at St. John’s, a small Episcopal church that is famous for hosting Presidents. It was just their third visit to a local church this year, and one of a handful of church services they’ve attended in Washington since moving into the White House. More often, Obama and his family have followed the lead of the Bush family, joining the congregation at Camp David when they spend the weekend at the presidential retreat in Maryland, but staying home on Sunday mornings when in Washington. In a poll last summer, two-thirds of Americans didn’t know that Obama is a Christian, a misperception that could be easily enough fixed if the President were seen trooping up the steps of a local church every Sunday. Three years into his presidency, though, Obama has clearly decided that isn’t an option for him and his family.


Read more here

Changing Church

Profiles: Rev. Dr. Monica A. Coleman

“Womanist theologies of salvation state that Jesus Christ can be seen as a black woman,” Rev. Dr. Monica A. Coleman writes in her book Making a Way Out of No Way. “Postmodern womanist theology argues that a black woman is often Christ. The Savior may be a teenager, a person living with a disability, a lesbian woman.” In the womanist tradition of engaging black women’s literature, one illustration of a Savior comes from Parable of the Sower, a science fiction novel by Octavia E. Butler. Lauren Oya Olamina, the African American teenage protagonist of the novel, walks north from a fictional suburb of Los Angeles when in 2024 her neighborhood enclave and family are destroyed. Other refugees join her journey, and she teaches them her “God-is-Change” theology, which she calls “Earthseed.” Rev. Dr. Coleman comments: “Lauren emerges as a Savior because she courageously uses her abilities to creatively transform. We know a Savior by what she does. Nevertheless, Lauren is an unlikely Savior. Because Lauren is young, black, and female, her leadership is questioned by the larger world.”

In Making a Way Out of No Way, Rev. Dr. Coleman gives another example of a Savior: Rev. Dr. Kathi Elaine Martin, founder of God, Self, and Neighbor (GSN) Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia, offering religious community to people who experience racism and heterosexism in both Christian communities and the wider society. “As an openly black lesbian woman with mental health challenges and multiple sclerosis, Martin does not appear to have the characteristics of a Savior. Yet as a theologian, teacher, preacher, and activist, Martin proves to be a worthy Savior. Like postmodern womanist theology, GSN understands the Savior as one who puts forth a theology of love and justice while generating greater awareness and health in the community.”

Read more here

Basic Black Live: The Black Church in the 21st Century

As we head into the Christmas holiday, we want to stop and consider the power of faith and religion as it plays out in the political, cultural, and social life of a community. In essence, the overall question is what is the role of the black church in the 21st century?

Our panelists: Callie Crossley, host of The Callie Crossley Show, WGBH 89.7; Kim McLarin,assistant professor, writing, piterature and publishing, Emerson College; Phillip Martin, senior investigative reporter, WGBH Radio; Rev. William Dickerson of the Greater Love Tabernacle in Dorchester, MA; and Rev. Lawrence Ward of Abundant Life Church in Cambridge, MA.

See the video here

Friday, December 16, 2011

The faith (and doubts) of our fathers

IN THE year of our Lord 1816 two grand old men of the American Revolution corresponded eagerly about the work they had recently done, in their rural retirement, on the Bible. Ex-President Thomas Jefferson thanked his old friend Charles Thomson, a co-sponsor of the Declaration of Independence, for sending a copy of his newly completed synopsis of the Gospels.

At a time when many modern Americans are arguing feverishly over the real significance of the nation’s religious and political beginnings, such letters can be dynamite. So let the contents of this exchange be noted carefully. Thomson, like most members of the first American Congress, which he had served as secretary, was a committed member of a church—in his case Presbyterian—but he still felt that there might be things in the Bible that organised Christianity hadn’t grasped. So he spent years re-translating the scriptures; the ex-president approved.
Read more here

Omaha Tri-Faith Initiative Has Unique Approach To Interfaith Relations

by Jaweed Kaleem
Huffington Post

In cities across the nation, increasingly diverse after waves of immigration and demographic changes, it's not uncommon to find Christian, Jewish and Islamic houses of worship located just blocks away from one another.

But in Omaha, Neb., an interfaith organization is taking such a pattern to the next level. Tri-Faith Initiative, a partnership of Christians, Jews and Muslims that aims to foster greater interfaith relations in that Midwestern city, is kicking off a multimillion-dollar effort to bring the three Abrahamic religions onto a single 35-acre campus.

"We thought, let's intentionally choose our neighbors," says Vic Gutman, a spokesman for the Tri-Faith Initiative, which launched five years ago as a grassroots interfaith effort and quickly gained funding and community support among the city's religious leaders. "We want to form a relationship between all Jews, all Muslims and all Christians."

The group, which announced this week that each religious group had closed on land purchase deals for the interfaith campus that total $5 million, will also build a Tri-Faith Center that will have educational and social facilities for use by all the campus' religious groups.
read more here

Debra Dodd Fired: Former Secretary At Cumberland Presbyterian Church Says Interracial Marriage Got Her Fired

A white church secretary is suing her former employer, arguing that she was fired for marrying a black man.

Debra Dodd, the former secretary at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, Tenn., and the Rev. Tim Smith, pastor of the church, agree on one thing: Most of the members of that congregation are great people.

But from there, their stories diverge.

Dodd has filed a lawsuit for back wages and $500,000 in punitive damages against the church after she was fired for what she says is racial discrimination.

Dodd said the all-white church first embraced her during her two years as secretary -- and then suddenly shunned and subsequently fired her on May 26 after they learned she had married a black man in April.
Read the rest here

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Attacking Mitt Romney, Attacking Faith

Religious prejudice has become a major campaign issue during the Republican primaries this fall. Not surprisingly, it's the "M" word. Surprisingly, the M word in question is not "Muslim." While Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain have both made remarks about the alleged dangers of sharia law in American courts, the M word making the most waves is "Mormon." The issue is this: Will a key Republican voting bloc -- conservative evangelical Christians -- refuse to support the likely front-runner, Mitt Romney, a Mormon?

The biggest wave thus far was caused by Robert Jeffress, who introduced presidential hopeful Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit in October and then made the rounds of reporters declaring Mitt Romney's religion a "cult" and saying "born-again followers of Christ should always prefer [a] competent Christian to a competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney."
Read more here

Jon Stewart: TLC's 'All-American Muslim' Not Stereotypical Enough For Florida Family Association

How we framed religion have consequences. See Below



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Newt Gingrich and religious conservatives: A marriage of convenience

The latest polls show a surging Newt Gingrich winning substantial support among white evangelical voters, the key voting bloc in the upcoming Iowa Caucuses. Those same voters, who comprise the core of the religious right movement, powered former minister Mike Huckabee to a Corn State upset in 2008. Huckabee’s decision to not run this election cycle created an opening for the rest of the GOP field to now court their support.
Read the rest here

If God forgave King David, why not Newt Gingrich?

By Becky Garrison
The Guardian

In the state of Iowa, is the former speaker of the US House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, experiencing his own Field of Dreams? According to a recent poll, Gingrich now has the support of 25% of likely Republican primary voters – up from 7% in late October. Central to his ambition is his need to win over evangelical Christian and conservative Catholic voters. But although his "Contract with America" delivered a Republican majority in congress in 1994, Gingrich, now on his third wife, is a man who has twice left a wife to marry his mistress.

The ingenious solution his handlers have come up with is to compare him to King David. Radio host Steve Deace categorised Gingrich and King David as "two extraordinary men gifted by God, whose lives include very high highs and very low lows". On the Town Hall website, columnist Dennis Prager reminds his religious readers that God himself thought that King David deserved to remain king – and even have the messiah descend from him – despite a particularly ugly form of adultery (sending Bathsheba's husband into battle where he would assuredly be killed).
Read more here

Is Tebow's Faith Getting Too Much Credit?

Courtesy of ESPN

Cris Carter, Stephen A. Smith, and Skip Bayless discuss how much credit Tim Tebow's faith is getting for his success.
See video here

All-American Muslim Meets an Un-American Advertising Pullout

by By James Poniewozik
Time Magazine

The TLC reality show All-American Muslim, which follows five families in Dearborn, Michigan, has a lot of points to make about the lives of average Muslim citizens in America, among them the lingering discrimination they face after 9/11. (Here’s my review of the show’s premiere.) Last week, hardware big-box store Lowe’s pulled its advertising from All-American Muslim under pressure–and thereby proved the show’s point.
Lowe’s pulled its ads following a protest campaign from the Florida Family Association, which objects to the show, in essence, because it portrays Muslims too positively. That is, it argues the show is “propaganda” because it portrays peaceful, ordinary Muslims without mentioning horrible things that other Muslims have done. Right: because a decade of news reports, eight seasons of 24 and constant political grandstanding have done a bang-up job of utterly ignoring Islamic extremists.
Read more here

How Bible Stories Evolved Over The Centuries

Many Christians believe that the words of the New Testament are set in stone. But scholars at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary are chronicling just how much those words have evolved over time.
For 11 years, they've combed through the earliest Greek manuscripts of each book in the New Testament and found more than 17,000 pages of variations. Their ultimate goal: the world's first comprehensive, searchable online database showing how the New Testament has changed.
The database is already up. The first explanations go live this fall with two books of the New Testament — Philippians and First Peter.
Now, scholars have known about many of these variations for years, but some of the changes might surprise many Christians.
Read more here

Contender Gingrich Stands Behind his Bold Remarks

The current contest among Republican hopefuls for the highest office in the United States has been characterized by unconstrained and sometimes spontaneous remarks by the candidates, as they vie with one another and with the pressure of the campaign. Among the leaders in the hard fought contest, Newt Gingrich,secure with a wide range of Washington experience, may have just made one such revealing outburst. On the other hand, his speaking may have been planned and thought out, an indication of his feelings on a crucial issue. Newt’s statement last week denying the legitimacy of Palestine among nations comes at a time when the world is a hotbed of religious and culture antipathy.

If indeed the ongoing ill will between Christians, Jews, and the West becomes global, possibly nuclear, the state of Israel may become the stage for warfare. Much of the world, in North Africa and in the East is moving inexorably toward Muslim domination. Egypt is falling to the Muslim Brotherhood. Iran is gaining support in its quest for nuclear weapons. The Muslims are joining forces in what may become traditional warfare and far-reaching terrorism. While America and the West try in vain to implement solutions to the war over the holy shrines, and holy regions in Israel/Palestine, the area continues to be the center of Muslim anti-Western attention.

Read more here

Repeating it Makes it So: How Rick Perry Equates Gays and Christians in “Strong” Ad

By now you’ve most likely seen Republican candidate Rick Perry’s most recent presidential 2012 campaign ad “Strong.” The ad has already inspired a number of parodies as well as criticism for what many perceive as a homophobic message. But little attention has been paid to its rhetorical moves—how the ad attempts to persuade its audience and make its argument. That’s where Religious Rhetorics comes in.
Some moves are more obvious than others. The war metaphor for instance. Perry depicts a war over religion in America between liberals and presumably conservatives, with liberals seeking to destroy the country’s historic faith. This sets the stage for Perry who, if elected president, will save the day from Obama, liberal of liberals, and defend America’s religious heritage.
But one rhetorical move is less obvious. It’s a move that has an archaic Greek name: ploche. Ploche is simply perfect verbal repetition and it occurs in this sentence:
Read the rest here

Monday, December 12, 2011

Rick Perry’s War on Reality

In an ad being run in Iowa, Texas Governor Rick Perry says, “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian. But you don’t have to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion, and I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.”
I have several thoughts about this, beginning with this one: To the degree that any person in this campaign has championed a “war” against religion, it is what Herman Cain advocated vis-à-vis Muslims – from saying he would deny them a spot in his Cabinet and on the federal bench to advocating a “loyalty proof.” So perhaps Governor Perry’s next ad can target Cain’s “war on religion.”
Read the rest here

Friday, December 9, 2011

Beliefs: Faith and Family Values at Issue in Republican Contest

By MARK OPPENHEIMER
New York Times

For the first time in American history, a major political party may be choosing between two leading presidential candidates neither of whom is Protestant. If current polling holds through the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses and beyond, the Republican nomination will come down to a choice between a Latter-day Saint, or Mormon, and a Roman Catholic.

It is therefore time to celebrate the broad-mindedness of American voters, but also to mourn the bigotries that may still linger. On the one hand, the Mitt Romney/ Newt Gingrich showdown — which, given the fickleness of primary voters, could soon seem as passé as Rick Perry/Herman Cain — testifies to Americans’ pluralist ideals. American voters, even religious Protestants, do not require that their president be Protestant, or born-again, or even a regular churchgoer. So long as a candidate makes bland, predictable affirmations of religious faith, he or she has adequately punched the religion card.
Read the rest here

Why Some Evangelicals Back Thrice-Wed Gingrich

One of the puzzles of the Republican presidential campaign is Newt Gingrich's appeal to religious conservatives. The irony is that Gingrich, a Catholic convert who has had three marriages, is outperforming Romney, a lifelong Mormon and family man. In fact, less than a month before the Iowa caucuses, the former speaker of the House has three times the support of evangelicals in that state that Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, does.

Now Romney is trying to mix it up. In an ad airing across Iowa, the former governor of Massachusetts describes himself as a man of "steadiness and constancy."

"I don't think you're going to find somebody who has more of those attributes than I do," Romney says in a clip from one of his debates. "I've been married to the same woman for 25 — excuse me, I'll get in trouble — for 42 years. I've been in the same church my entire life."
Read the rest here

Evangelicals and Religious Liberty

When Rob Schwarzwalder, senior vice president at the Family Research Council, criticized evangelical groups for ignoring threats to religious freedom, he got some pushback.
“[T]o say that these organizations have not spoken out is not true,” concluded one article in the Christian Post, though it also acknowledged that Schwarzwalder might be looking for a “more robust and vocal outcry” than the organizations had provided.
The dispute was aired in online posts on the website of First Things, the journal that offers ecumenical and interreligious commentary on the role of religion in the public square. It signaled that some leading evangelicals have begun to reassess their response to a developing political issue.

The debate has surfaced during a sea change in evangelical political leadership, following the retreat of Focus on the Family’s James Dobson. Some evangelical activists contend that no other leader has been able to match Dobson’s ability to catalyze churches throughout the nation to register their concerns on Capitol Hill.


Read more here

Perry ad hits 'Obama's war on religion'



In a religion-themed ad, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry vowed, as U.S. president, he would end what he called President Obama's "war on religion."

In his new ad, which began airing Wednesday, the Texas governor also pledge to fight attacks from the left on the country's religious heritage.

Read the rest here

One Womanist’s Outlook on “An Odd Future for Faith in Hip Hop”

I used to love hip-hop.

I don't remember the day I fell out of love, but one day it suddenly didn't matter that I knew who DJ Kool Herc was, or that like some hip-hop griot I could explain how sampling was born, or expound on the anger and angst that fueled a graffiti artist's civic rebellion. One day I woke up (Spike Lee style) and didn't care what mix tape was about to drop, which album leaked or who the Source awarded 5 mics to.

I do, however, remember fighting for hip-hop. I remember trying to justify its contradictions, and like many women I tried to stay in love with its "potential" despite its flagrantly abusive qualities. But at the end of the day, our love affair ended. (I've learned that it's hard to save something or someone that doesn't want to be saved).

After much reflection I realized that I was in love with hip-hop before I knew what "Big Pimpin'" really meant. I was in love with hip-hop before I accepted that when rappers were addressing women as "bitches and hos" they were actually talking to me (and my sisters). I loved hip-hop before the vulgarity of Lil' Kim's Hardcore album cover was ascribed as having feminist power. Before the unrealistic photo-shopped and saline injected bodies adorned covers of hip-hop magazines. I was in love before I read Their Eyes Were Watching God, Delores Williams and Alice Walker. I loved all of hip-hop before my seminary classes with Dr. Carpenter, Dr. Bellis, Dr. Sanders and Dr. Wiley.

In short, I was in love with hip-hop before I recognized my female self to be a reflection of the Divine.

Read more here

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Rise of Black Atheism

from the Root
A recent New York Times article profiled African Americans who don't believe in God or who have eschewed the faith that many assume is central to the black experience. What does the apparent rise in atheism and agnosticism (pdf) among blacks tell us about the utility of religion for African Americans in today's social and political climate? Interviews with academics, activists and advocates from everywhere on the religious spectrum reveal the diversity of views on this historically fraught -- and, for many, highly personal -- topic.

Read the interviews here

Southern Baptists examine role in slavery

Southerners still argue the cause of the Civil War on the 150th anniversary of its start.

Some call it the War of the Northern Aggression, a battle that pitted patriots defending states’ rights against a tyrannical federal government. Others blame economics — regional tensions between the industrialized North and the rural South.

But at the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives in downtown Nashville, what the Baptists of that era thought becomes clear.

The cause was slavery. They never even mentioned anything else.

Today, as Tennessee observes the war’s sesquicentennial, Southern Baptist historians hope to remind their fellow Baptists about why the war started and its long-term consequences on their Nashville-based denomination.
Read the rest here

Egypt’s elections and the risky rule of God

Among the more disturbing news developments in recent weeks is the surprising (to some western pundits, at least) strength shown by the hardest line Islamic party in the first round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections. This story is being buried inside newspapers and at the bottom of newcasts, as the American media concentrate on truly important subjects such as the size of Professor Newt Gingrich’s head and former candidate Herman Cain’s strange exit from the presidential primary stage.

In Egypt, the ultra-conservative Salafis, who believe that Sharia should be imposed on every aspect of Egyptian life, won about 25 percent of the vote in the initial parliamentary election last month. The Muslim Brotherhood, which only believes that Sharia should govern some aspects of everyday life and influence some aspects of government policy, won 40 percent of the vote with its Freedom and Justice Party. Add up the numbers: Nearly two-thirds of Egyptian voters at this time want Islam to play a bigger role in government and one-fourth voted for a party that stands for the most retrograde form of their religion. The more secular political parties lagged far behind and are expected to do even more poorly in the next round of elections, to be held later this month in less-educated rural areas.
read the rest here

Christian Religious Identity vs. Muslims

The core lie underlying the recent rise of Islamophobia is the claim that Muslims' loyalty to their faith makes them untrustworthy Americans. As we've tracked in the past, Anti-Muslim commentators (and even former presidential candidates) continue to falsely promote this divisive rhetoric, propagating the myth that if Muslims find their religion and loyalty to America in conflict, they would ultimately betray America.

With such an intense focus on the "loyalty" of American Muslims, it should serve as a surprise to anti-Muslim commentators that a new poll from Gallup finds that devotion to one's faith before country is not exclusively a characteristic of minority religions. American Christians--particularly white evangelicals (who are least comfortable with public displays of Muslim religion and culture) actually report thinking of themselves in terms of their faith first in much higher numbers.
Read the rest here

Scholars see 'breach' between bishops, theologians

Aftershocks of the U.S. bishops' doctrine committee's moves against theologian Sr. Elizabeth Johnson spread Monday as the College Theology Society issued a statement saying the bishops' moves represent a "fundamental breach" in the call for dialogue in the church and wounds the "entire community of Catholic theologians."

The Monday statement from the College Theology Society, which represents lay and religious undergraduate theology faculty, is the latest in a months-long saga over Johnson's book Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God, which the bishops first blasted in March.

In late October, the bishops' Committee on Doctrine reconfirmed their condemnation, which touched off questions of why the bishops hadn't first attempted dialogue with the St. Joseph sister and what that might mean for the practice of theology.

The theology society's statement, signed by its seven board members and four officers and addressed to the society's membership, expresses "sadness and grave concern" over the bishops' October statement because the bishops went forward "without entering into a process of dialogue with [Johnson] about the issues being raised."

"The course of action taken by the Committee on Doctrine represents a fundamental breach in the call for dialogue within the church and in particular between theologians and bishops, a call that is one of the hallmarks of the documents of the Second Vatican Council," reads the statement, which was posted to the society's website.
Read the rest here

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why Should We Care About The Religious Views of Our Candidates?

by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz
for Jewish Week Online

As the Presidential race progresses, once again the role of religion in politics has re-emerged as a common tension that cannot be dismissed. American Jews have often feared bringing religion into the political discourse out of fear of anti-Semitism, but this concern has hopefully lessened since Senator Lieberman was a serious Presidential candidate while being open about his traditional Jewish practices and perspectives. In our commitment to build a just society, we have an imperative to ask questions about the religious views of our politicians.

A recent study in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion found that there is no difference between the ethical behavior of religious believers and nonbelievers; rather, the key difference was the type of, and approach to, religious belief. For example, they found that those who believed in a loving, compassionate god were more likely to cheat than those who believed in an angry, punitive one. Religious beliefs matter in moral decision-making.
Read more here

Monday, December 5, 2011

Democrats see opening to attract religious voters in 2012 election

By Josh Lederman
The Hill

Democrats claim to have an unprecedented, promising opportunity to expand their voter base into previously uncharted territory — religious voters.

Republicans have long walked in lock step with the loudest and most influential voices in the American religious sphere, professing a monopoly on the faith-based values that drive the decisions of millions of religious voters.

But eager to leave no stone unturned as they peruse the electorate for 2012 supporters, Democrats are setting out to court faith-based voters by connecting their policies on economic issues to the values of equality, tolerance and humanitarianism.

Read more here

Politics 2012: Religion has a place in political discussion

The 2012 election cycle is kinda-sorta breaking the time-honored American adage of not discussing religion and politics in the same sentence

Kinda-sorta because two men seeking the Republican presidential nomination are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called the Mormons. Faith in broad terms is discussed; specific religions generally are not.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who sought the party's nod four years ago, tried to allay voter concerns during the 2008 campaign about his Mormon faith influencing a Romney White House, saying: "If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion. A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States."

Should questions on religion now come up on the stump, Romney talks about faith in general, not specifics of his faith.

But the undercurrent is there.

Read more here

POLITICS OF THE EMPTY CHURCH: WHY ROWAN WILLIAMS DEFENDED SHARI'A LAW

by Benjamin Myers
ABC Religion

Contemporary western societies have witnessed the emergence of a new tribalism, fuelled by the logic of capitalism with its proliferation of niche identities and by the politics of multiculturalism with its advocacy of mere "difference," while lacking the language to articulate any vision of a common good.

Such multicultural pluralism is a mirror image of the postmodern ethics of difference, where each person is assumed to be absolutely "other."

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams argues that, once this doctrine of otherness has taken hold of political imagination, we are left with the depressing prospect of "a world in which there aren't and couldn't be any real discussion of the goals and destiny of human beings as such."

The resulting social order starts to look like a Hobbesian war of all against all, a chaotic rivalry between segregated interest groups, each ruthlessly brandishing its own rights and freedoms while the State is reduced to the role of suppressing open conflict by policing the borders of "difference."
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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Evangelicals Flocking Toward Newt Gingrich

Like many evangelicals in Iowa, Steve Deace, an influential conservative radio host, is wrestling with the possibility that Newt Gingrich may be the most viable standard bearer for family-values voters in the next election. It’s a conundrum, he says, that many others are also grappling with. "Maybe the guy in the race that would make the best president is on his third marriage," he says. "How do we reconcile that?"

One senses him trying. "I see a lot of parallels between King David and Newt Gingrich, two extraordinary men gifted by God, whose lives include very high highs and very low lows," Deace says. David, after all, committed adultery with the ravishing Bathsheba, then had her husband killed, among other transgressions. The Bible makes room for complicated, morally compromised heroes. Now Christian conservatives, desperate for an alternative to Mitt Romney, are learning to do so as well.

"Under normal circumstances, Gingrich would have some real problems with the social-conservative community," says Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council. "But these aren’t normal circumstances."
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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Why the Muslim Brotherhood wins

The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is exceeding already high expectations in the first of Egypt’s three-round parliamentary elections.  Although opinion polls had predicated the MB support at 20-30 percent, initial returns indicate that the FJP and its allies may win over 40 percent of seats, depending on the outcome of runoffs.
Many attribute this bump to the Brotherhood’s impressive ground-game.  “Each Muslim Brotherhood member signs on to a rigorous educational curriculum and is part of something called an usra, or family, which meets weekly,”  explains Shadi Hamid  Director of Research at the Brookings Doha Center, “If a Brother chooses to stay home on election day, other Brothers will know.”
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Friday, December 2, 2011

Democrat leaders merge church and party

Top Democratic legislators are promising to harness religion to help them win 2012 voters, and are also declaring that the Democratic Party’s actions are the expression of their religious obligations.
“The Democrats’ values and core agenda, and President Obama’s accomplishments, are reflective of the tenets and teachings and lessons of my faith as a Jewish woman… [and] no, there aren’t things that are informed by my faith than are different from the values and ideals of the Democratic Party,” said Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Wasserman Schultz and other Democrats, including Rep. James Clyburn, spoke at a Nov. 30 press event in the DNC’s headquarters intended to promote the party’s 2012 religious outreach.
When asked by The Daily Caller if the party’s blending of religion and politics is blurring distinctions between church and state, Clyburn said, “We are in recognition of the fundamental aspect of all of the great religions … love, the golden rule, of doing unto others as you would have be done unto you.”
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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Getting in Front of Jesus: The Politics of Progressive Christianity (Part II)

by Brad Braxton
Huffington Post

How can progressive Christians "get in front" of Jesus by using the gospel forward to address pressing social dilemmas? In response to this question, I will discuss two moments from Jesus' story and "remix" them. A remix occurs when fresh elements are introduced into an old framework, thereby creating a new story.

The Birth of Jesus: A Progressive Remix
According to the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus was born in a social context where a cruel king worked on behalf of Rome to ensure Caesar's sovereignty. After learning of Jesus' birth, King Herod plots to kill Jesus. An angel warns Joseph of Herod's wicked intentions. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus become immigrants, fleeing the harsh conditions of their homeland to secure safety and a better future in Egypt. Unable to locate Jesus, Herod sends a decree to murder all children in and around Bethlehem who are two years old and under.
Every Christmas, Christians look back to the birth of Jesus. We even replicate the sentimental parts of the story with pageants and live nativity scenes. My progressive remix focuses on the more tragic elements of the story. Instead of looking back and adoring the "sweet little Jesus boy" in the manger, the story can be a launching pad for prophetic discipleship and twenty-first-century social justice activism.
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Getting in Front of Jesus: The Politics of Progressive Christianity (Part I)

by Brad Braxton
Huffington Post

Parishioners in the church of my childhood often sang the hymn, "I have decided to follow Jesus...No turning back, no turning back." The hymn cautioned disciples about turning away from Jesus. This essay explores the prospect of being disciples by getting in front of Jesus.
To follow a person usually means walking behind that person. Could it be, however, that we follow Jesus most faithfully when we walk ahead of Jesus? I argue for a progressive Christianity that extends the meaning and mission of Jesus into the present and future, rather than promoting an obsession with the past. Defining "progressive Christian" and "prophetic evangelical" (interchangeable terms for me) will facilitate a discussion of the politics of progressive Christianity.

Progressive Christian
According to some accounts, the term "progressive Christian" surfaced in the 1990s and began replacing the more traditional term "liberal Christian." During this period, some Christian leaders wanted to increasingly identify an approach to Christianity that was socially inclusive, conversant with science and culture, and not dogmatically adherent to theological litmus tests such as a belief in the Bible's inerrancy. The emergence of contemporary Christian progressivism was a refusal to make the false choice of "redeeming souls or redeeming the social order."
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