Friday, June 6, 2014

End-of-Week News Roundup: Religion and Politics, Marriage Equality, Theology and Irish Mass Grave, Etc.

A selection of articles I've read in the past few days that make noteworthy points — the following mostly religion-themed in one way or another:

Oliver Roy notes that the resurgent European hard right loves to talk about the Christian identity of Europe, while ignoring core Christian values — with the complicity of Christian churches: 

The political right's dual move — claiming the mantle of Christianity but not its values — is a threat to Christianity as radical as it is indirect: It risks stripping the religion of its spirituality. . . . So far, the Christian churches have contributed to the problem.

Patricia Miller analyzes how, with the full complicity of the U.S. Catholic bishops, the Christian Right helped the Republican party claim the Christian mantle with an agenda focusing obsessively on abortion (and gay marriage), which attacks the poor and those working to save the environment:

But the emerging Christian Right glommed on to the newly politicized issue of abortion and didn’t let go. They used it to bring Ronald Reagan to power, resulting in cuts to anti-poverty and environmental programs and a newly militaristic nation—values diametrically opposed to Catholicism.

Molly Worthen comments on the great fail of the Southern Baptist Convention's attempt to merge its expression of Christian faith with GOP orthodoxy:

America’s largest Protestant denomination cracked down on moderates when the culture wars hit, arguing that liberalism led to decline. Now they’re hemorrhaging members just like everyone else.

Noting that progressive versions of Christianity are resurgent in the U.S. public square, Paul Brandeis Raushenbush points out how the media have long allowed the religious right to dominate talk about "the" Christian identity and agenda:

While important Liberation, Black, Womanist and Feminist theology was being lived out in communities around the world, when the media wanted a "representative" Christian voice it generally turned to these men with the largest megaphones who brought their faith language to conservative political stances on issues such as abortion, the role of women, LGBT rights, the death penalty, social welfare and war.

Emma Green reports on a recent Public Religion Research Institute survey which finds that a small, determined core of Americans continue to think that private businesses should be able to shout "Religious freedom!" and refuse to serve black customers (and Jewish, atheist, gay ones, as well):

In an interesting new survey, the Public Religion Research Institute found that 10 percent of Americans believe business owners should be able to refuse to serve black people if they see that as a violation of their religious beliefs. 

(Footnote: a slightly higher percentage of Catholics than of Protestants buy this "religious freedom" argument about denying service to black folks, which confirms for me that 1) racism is deeply embedded in some sectors of American Catholicism, and 2) it's more intractable precisely because many U.S. Catholics think it's only the problem of bigoted Southerners, to whom they're superior, and from whose experience they have been unwilling to learn, when those white Southerners have struggled with and repudiated their legacy of historic racism.)

Lawyers for the Catholic diocese of Trenton, NJ, explain how we know when a priest is not a priest (hint: he's never a priest when the church is liable for his actions and may have to reach into its coffers to pay for those actions) — this is from a Star-Ledger editorial:

"How do we determine when a priest is and is not on duty," one justice asked. 
"Well," the diocese's lawyer explained, "you can determine a priest is not on duty when he is molesting a child, for example."

In North Carolina, the religious groups joining a lawsuit claiming that their religious freedom is violated by the state ban on marriage equality grows larger, as Mark Price indicates:

The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and the Alliance of Baptists have made it official that they are joining as plaintiffs in a Federal District Court lawsuit opposing North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban.

In Florida, when an anti-gay lobbying group joins with Latino and African American "Democratic" groups to oppose equal rights for gay citizens, including the right to civil marriage, here's a judge's response:

Denying their request to be parties in the case, Judge Zabel found that these groups did not have a concrete legal interest in the case because they "will not be directly and immediately affected if others enter into a same-sex marriage, or are prevented from entering into a same-sex marriage."

Fabiola Santiago raises her eyebrows at the . . . curious . . . argument of thrice-married Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi that gay marriage is a bad thing because it leads to, well, unstable marriages:

The Republican attorney general could only wish to be as blessed with as strong a union as many gay couples enjoy – marriage-like relationships that have lasted longer than all of Bondi’s marriages put together.

More from Andrew Sullivan on the mass grave of babies and young children found behind a Catholic home for unwed mothers in Tuam, Ireland:

But the absolutist paradigm in which any sex outside marriage is anathema is such an impossible standard for most that it will fail if not enforced with the kind of brutality seen in Ireland in the 1940s or Iran in the 2010s. My contention is that the rigidity of this standard is inextricably tied up with cruelty. And that cruelty is far, far greater a sin, than surrendering to our deepest nature, hurting no one.

And, as some Catholic blog sites try to spin the news from Tuam as news about an old burial site for a workhouse previously on the site in Tuam, Camila Domonske reports for NPR that the Irish media are talking about more similar burial sites now being found at other church-run facilities for unwed mothers:

Since the news broke, Irish media have reported that at least three similar church-run facilities also have mass graveyards. . . . There are at least three more mass graves, located at former homes for unwed mothers in Bessborough, Castlepollard and Roscrea, according to RTÉ.

Finally, unrelated (but definitely related) political commentary from Matt Stoller about the con-artist wing of the Democratic party that has its head so far up the posterior of bankers and Wall Street that many Democrats have begun to lose all confidence in the Democratic party as a viable alternative to the GOP, which has its head so far up the posterior of bankers and Wall Street that . . . :

Geithner is at heart a grifter, a petty con artist with the right manners and breeding to lie at the top echelons of American finance at a moment when the government and financial services industry needed someone to be the face of their multi-trillion dollar three card monte.

And so it goes, on this day of St. Norbert 2014 — a saint who was an archbishop who was once refused admission to his own episcopal palace because he was dressed so poorly that he looked like an ordinary working person and not an archbishop.

The graphic: I find this photo used at various websites around the Internet, with no attribution of its original source. If any reader has that information, I'll gladly post it.

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