Friday, September 26, 2014

End-of-Week Commentary on Religious Matters: Religious-Right Gathering, White Evangelicals' Persecution Complex, Banning of Theologian Tina Beattie, "Unchanging"? Church Teaching, WWJD?

As the work week ends, some thought-provoking observations I've gleaned from things I've read in the past several days, all with a religious (and/or a religion-and-politics) focus:

Jay Michaelson at Daily Beast, reporting on the "shadowy, powerful network" of Christian-right political players, the Gathering, currently meeting at a $1,750-per-person, invitation-only gathering in Orlando*:

I think the story of the politicized religious right is one of the biggest untold stories of our time. It’s the story of how a covert political movement, driven by a well-organized, -funded, and committed minority, has perturbed the political arc of the biggest, wealthiest, and most powerful nation on Earth—and how it has subverted the national dialogue. 
I'm annoyed at the basic dishonesty of religio/political phenomena such as The Gathering that lay claim to the Christian tradition but ignore its underlying mandate of truth-telling. 

At his The Jesus Event blog, Tyler M. Tully zeroes in on one of the key findings of the Pew Research Center survey published this week, which I discussed here — namely, that half of white evangelicals in the U.S. believe they are subjected to singular persecution: 

It seems that the Evangelical industrial complex serves less to evangelize the larger culture towards salvation than it protects against outside contamination. . . . The white-Evangelical disconnect seems misguided at best and according to some, deliberate at worst; serving as a type of cover against the real persecutions levied against the LGBTQA community, Muslims, Blacks, Jews, atheists, and Hispanics. 

On her Facebook page, theologian Tina Beattie explains why she has gone public with the story that she has been banned from speaking on Catholic premises in the archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh**:

This is part of a battle for the soul of the Church. Do we have shepherds who smell of the sheep - a messy, risk-taking participatory Church which is not afraid of the wild frontiers of faith (beautifully described by Pope Francis in his interview with Antonio Scafaro SJ), or do we have a culture of clerical elitism, ruthless authoritarianism and intimidation of all who dare to question or to think outside the box? I don't think there are any fences left to sit on.

At his Dating God blog, Brother Daniel Horan looks at the distinctly strange claim of many right-wing Catholics (a claim that the mainstream media and centrist Catholic publications repeat mindlessly, as if it's unquestionably correct) that church teaching has not and cannot change: 

"Church teaching," in the broad sense in which [Cardinal Raymond] Burke evokes it here [i.e., in a statement to Catholic News Agency], does in fact change and change more regularly than one in his reactionary shoes might imagine. 
Unfortunately, the good cardinal and canonist makes for a very inaccurate theologian and historian: changes in "church teaching" are in fact very possible and recognizable.

Did you ever notice how little time Jesus spent in ritual? Yet this has become the primary focus in many churches. Think about it: Jesus healed, taught, fed, celebrated, prayed, connected, forgave, and sometimes participated in rituals. How have we gotten this so turned around? 
It might be important for us to consider whether we want to keep it this way or not.

* Thanks to Chris Morley for providing this link in a comment here yesterday.

** Again, I'm grateful to Chris Morley for sharing this story in a comment here yesterday, and to Philomena Ewing of the Ennis Blue blog (listed in my blog links here) for sharing Tina Beattie's statement on Phil's Facebook page.

*** I'm grateful to Claire Bangasser of the A Seat at the Table blog listed in my blog list for sharing this on her Facebook page.

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