Friday, December 25, 2015

Looking Back at 2015 on Christmas Day: "The Light Around Us Remains, We Take Our Mercies As We Get Them"

More Christmas gifts I've unwrapped this morning, that I now want to give to you, my friends and fellow pilgrims around the world:

Donald E. Miller notes the graying of churches and synagogues throughout the U.S., which suggests that, in a generation, they will be empty — but he finds hope in this process of "creative destruction" of religion in the U.S.:

Religious extremists want to roll back the clock on modernity to recreate a time when moral choices were simple and Old World values predominated. In contrast, old institutional forms are not resonating with millennials' postmodern mentality. 
Fundamentalists' reaction to modernity is predictable. They are threatened by individualism, the upending of traditional values and gradual decimation of institutions that have historically maintained moral order. What is novel in the fundamentalists' response is that they use modern technology to promote their regressive morality. 
For the millennial generation, the same technology expands rather than contracts their horizons. As I argue in my book Finding Faith, tradition means little to them. They pick and choose among various options, including the array of religions and forms of spirituality.  . . . 
[B]ut as a scholar of religion, I'm quite positive about our future. To borrow a phrase from business and economics, mainstream religion is in a period of "creative destruction." It may be falling apart, but contemporary culture also offers the opportunity for religion to renew itself.

In her listing of the 10 reasons for us feel better about 2015, Medea Benjamin focuses on the Black Lives Matter movement, inter alia:  

The Black Lives Matter movement gets results. This incredible uprising has forced issues of racial injustice into the national spotlight and created real reforms within communities across the country. The Movement for Black Lives got its momentum in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, and spread throughout the nation. Cops have been convicted, police chiefs have been ousted, citizen review boards have been empowered, Confederate flags have come down, buildings named after racists have been renamed, presidential candidates have been forced to talk about race. Kudos to the many young black activists leading the way (emphasis in original).

In his review of the big religion stories of 2015, Rev. Madison Shockley celebrates the fact that "despite conservative backlash against same-sex weddings in 2015, ministers who support them can now fully practice their religions." He writes,

In the realm of religion, the No. 1 story of 2015 was provided by a nonreligious institution: the Supreme Court of the United States. The justices’ 5-to-4 ruling declaring that no one may be deprived of the freedom to marry—a liberty that they ruled is guaranteed in the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment—now means the choice to wed someone of the same gender cannot be legally denied. 
The opposition has continued to complain that the decision impinges on the religious liberty of those who oppose same-gender-loving couples, yet there is nothing in the ruling that requires religious bodies to participate, allow or in any way support same-sex marriage. The ruling is solely relevant to the civil courts and jurisdictions that authorize marriage licenses. Once a license is issued, the couple may be married by anyone authorized and willing to perform the ceremony. 
What really makes this a religion story is that the ruling allows clergy, congregations and denominations who support same-gender couples to freely and fully practice their beliefs. Until this ruling, ministers who performed same-sex weddings in states where they were illegal could not have those sacred ceremonies legally recognized in the same way that the ceremonies performed for female-male couples are.

And D.L. Mayfield, the daughter of an evangelical minister whose family had a horrendous year, talks about how she discovered that Jesus is her "battered, brother" this year and not the "walking theology" and list of dos and don'ts she had assumed him to be before:

"It's been our hardest year yet," my husband said. He paused for a minute. "But our kids sure are great." We don't have the energy to pretend we are okay, because we aren't really. But the light around us remains, we take our mercies as we get them, we see a new year just around the corner. Maybe, just maybe, this one will be a little bit easier.

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