Christians

In the midst of so much death, how can we Christians celebrate Easter?

These questions can be paired with questions regarding our own sense of worship on that day. How much have we Christians replaced justice with worship, not taking one into serious relation with the other? Are we accustomed to worship in the total absence of justice?

Image via RNS/UUA/Nancy Pierce

The Rev. Peter Morales, the first Latino president of the liberal and theologically diverse association, resigned effective on April 1, as criticism mounted over hiring practices.

“It is clear to me that I am not the right person to lead our Association as we work together to create the processes and structures that will address our shortcomings and build the diverse staff we all want,” he wrote in his March 30 resignation letter to the UUA’s trustee board.

Image via RNS/European Union 2016 - European Parliament/Pietro Naj-Oleari

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks made a name for himself as chief rabbi of Great Britain for nearly a quarter-century, a time of great tumult that included the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the influx of millions of Muslims into Europe, and the ongoing pressures to absorb and assimilate newcomers into a mostly secular society.

As chief rabbi, from 1991 to 2013, he stressed an appreciation and respect of all faiths, with an emphasis on interfaith work that brings people together, while allowing each faith its own particularity.

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Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission have affirmed ethicist Russell Moore, despite his criticism of President Trump that caused some to consider withholding funds from the denomination.

“For us not to stand in affirmation of the principles that Dr. Moore has espoused would be unfaithful to the mission entrusted to us by the Convention,” wrote the Executive Committee of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in a statement posted on March 20, on the website of the agency that Moore leads.

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Dutch Muslims are breathing a sigh of relief after the worse-than-expected performance of anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders in this week’s election.

“We have trust in the future” of this traditionally welcoming country, said Rasit Bal of the Muslims-Government Contact Organization, an advocacy group, which feared a victory by Wilders’ PVV party would strengthen the anti-immigrant sentiment in the Netherlands.

Image via RNS/Rev. Justo Gonzalez II

The Trump administration’s hard-line stance on undocumented immigrants is polarizing: People have responded with either “throw the bums out” or “have a heart.” But the question of whether faith communities can legally offer the undocumented physical sanctuary — sheltering them in churches, synagogues, and mosques to keep them from immigration authorities — is not so cut and dry. 

Image via RNS/Adelle M. Banks

The pro-Trump evangelicals suffer from a spiritual crisis, not a political one.

Moore has challenged the foundations of conservative evangelical political engagement because they desperately needed to be shaken. For 35 years, the old-guard religious right has uncritically coddled, defended, and promoted the Republican Party.

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President Trump, long-chided for failing to address a surge in hate crimes, began his first address to Congress by invoking Black History Month, and condemning recent threats against Jewish institutions and the shooting of Indian men in Kansas City.

Photo via Craig Hendrickson/ RNS 

A survey released last week by the Pew Research Center suggested a very different view of the presidential actions, especially among white Protestant Christians.

There was strong support among white evangelical Protestants, with more than three-quarters (76 percent) saying they approve of the policies outlined in Trump’s order. Among white mainline Protestants, 50 percent approved.

Many Christians now are asking the question Helena Leffingwell of Arlington, Texas – not a pastor or ministry leader, just a regular member of Gateway Church, a nondenominational megachurch – put into words: “How can we see things so differently?”

After sessions on gravitational waves, nuclear forensics, and artificial intelligence, one of the world’s largest general science conferences invited attendees to hear from an Episcopal priest.

The Rev. Fletcher Harper preached on climate change, and how to get a vast segment of the world’s population to pay better attention to what scientists know but many others doubt: that the problem is worsening and portends disaster.

“My entreaty for scientists is to be able to speak publicly about why you care,” said Harper, executive director of GreenFaith, an interfaith nonprofit that aims to galvanize religious people to safeguard the environment.

Matthew Schmalz 2-13-2017

Image via RNS/Fibonacci Blue/flickr.com

The world seems to be witnessing increasing levels of violence, fear, and hatred that challenge us each day. There are ongoing debates about how or whether to welcome immigrants and refugees to the United States; news headlines remind us about the plight of Syria and about the horrors of the Islamic State.

In such times, talk about mercy may seem more like wishful thinking. But mercy matters – now more than ever.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Pope Francis has called for prayers for the Rohingya, the Muslim minority group forced to flee violence and persecution in Myanmar.

 

Image Via Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah

In other comments published Monday, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Baghdad also said Trump’s policy of preferential immigration for Christians was a “trap” and would “create and feed” tensions with Muslims. 

LAST SUMMER, THE FUTURE of for-profit prisons seemed bleak. The U.S. Department of Justice announced it would begin phasing out its use of privately run prisons and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security quickly followed suit, declaring that it would reconsider its use of privately run detention centers. Stocks for companies that ran for-profit prisons plunged.

But then Donald Trump was elected president, and private prison stocks immediately soared. The nation’s largest prison company, CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), reported a boost of more than 40 percent in the value of its shares. Given Trump’s promises to “create a new special deportation task force,” investors bet that privately run detention centers will play a key role.

And the investors may be right. Every year, DHS detains about 400,000 undocumented immigrants in 250 centers nationwide, and 62 percent of the beds in these centers are operated by for-profit corporations.

According to Maria-José Soerens, a licensed mental-health counselor serving undocumented immigrants in Seattle, there are two major problems with for-profit detention centers. First, for-profit centers are not held accountable to the standards that govern federally run centers. In her work in these centers, Soerens has heard complaints ranging from a lack of medical attention to inadequate opportunities for parent-child visitation; one young woman who was having suicidal thoughts was kept in solitary confinement until she told guards she was “better.”

But the deepest problem, explains Soerens, is that most detention centers only exist because corporations saw a “business opportunity.” Beginning in the early 2000s, for-profit prison companies successfully lobbied Congress to expand drastically the number of beds in the immigration detention system—a move that doubled the revenue of the two largest for-profit prison companies. In 1998, there were 14,000 beds available for immigrant detention; today, there are 34,000.

Hussein Rashid 1-25-2017

RELIGION IS AN EASY language for people to use to define conflict. The people most willing to speak about what religion demands are the ones least likely to be invested in the sacrifices religion requires. They want the power that they believe they can claim through religion.

Those same voices who engage in this idle worship now hold the reins of power in the U.S. government. And they seek to exterminate Muslims. There are concerns of a Muslim registry and internment camps. More extreme fears consider other types of camps, imagining a return of the Holocaust. These fears are not unfounded, nor are they out of character with what President Trump’s advisers and appointees have said.

Yet these parallels are so powerful that I think it may be difficult for them to be realized. What I think is more likely in the near term is a different historical parallel. At the waning of another empire, the Colosseum became a space where individuals were martyred for what they believed, for entertainment.

An individual loss may be horrible, but the individual’s community may still believe it is safe. But death can come by a thousand cuts. The lion that chooses one life at a time remains a ravenous beast—the whole community will be vilified and will eventually die, just not quickly. And that beast will need a new food source.

The mayor of New York announced a 35-percent increase in hate crimes in the city in the month following the election. During that time there were 43 hate crimes documented. In December, a Muslim Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker wearing her uniform and a hijab was pushed down a flight of stairs at Grand Central station, and a Muslim police officer was threatened, in front of her teenage son, with having her throat slit. In August, two Muslim leaders were shot to death after leaving prayers at their mosque. For years, the New York police department has spied on Muslims where we pray.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

“This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this ‘Amazing Grace’ calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness, for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short.”

Image via RNS/Tom Heneghan

All was apparently going fine until Micha Brumlik, a retired Frankfurt University education professor and respected Jewish commentator, wrote last June that the popular toy was “anti-Jewish, if not even anti-Semitic.”

The problem, he said, was the inscription on the open pages of the Bible that the Playmobil Luther holds. On the left is written in German: “Books of the Old Testament. END,” while the right page says “The New Testament, translated by Doctor Martin Luther.”

Image via RNS/Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

The United States Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s, according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center.

Nearly 91 percent of members of the 115th Congress convening on Jan. 3 describe themselves as Christian, compared to 95 percent of Congress members serving from 1961 to 1962, according to congressional data compiled by CQ Roll Call and analyzed by Pew.

Image via RNS/Adelle Banks

When President Obama signed a newly strengthened international religious freedom act on Dec. 16, the intention was to protect religious believers around the world.

But the freshly signed act is being heralded by some legal scholars as a different milestone — for the first time, atheists and other nonreligious persons are explicitly named as a class protected by the law.

Image via RNS/Rev. Tuhina Verma Rasche and the Rev. Jason Chestnut

For many Christians who observe the liturgical season of Advent, leading up to Christmas, an Advent devotional is a beloved companion.

Such devotionals typically include a short Scripture reading and reflection on the birth of Jesus.

But most are “crap,” according to the Rev. Jason Chesnut of Baltimore.

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