Faith and Politics

Elizabeth Weise 05-20-2015
Photo via REUTERS / Bret Hartman / RNS

Cindy Lee Garcia speaks to reporters after a court hearing in 2012. Photo via REUTERS / Bret Hartman / RNS

An appeals court has overturned a controversial ruling that required YouTube to take down a video that disparaged Muslims.

One of the actresses in the film sued to take it down and won, but an appeals court ruled May 18 that she didn’t have the right to control the film’s distribution.

When it was released in 2012, the short film, titled Innocence of Muslims, sparked violence in the Middle East and death threats to the actors.

Renee Gadoua 05-20-2015
Photo via Jim Forest / Flickr / RNS

Thomas Merton portrait by John Howard Griffin. Photo via Jim Forest / Flickr / RNS

If the influential Catholic writer Thomas Merton were alive today, he would likely have strong words about police brutality and racial profiling.

Back in 1963, Merton called the civil rights movement “the most providential hour, the kairos not merely of the Negro, but of the white man.”

His words echoed May 16 among black pastors at a conference, titled Sacred Journeys and the Legacy of Thomas Merton, hosted by Louisville’s Center for Interfaith Relations. The event marked the 100th anniversary of Merton’s birth.

Timothy Kesicki 05-19-2015
Photo via Wikimedia / Public Domain

Photo via Wikimedia / Public Domain

Central America needs help expanding education opportunities, building child welfare systems, and sheltering victims of violence and witnesses to crime. But none of these reforms can be sustained unless Central American governments also work to eradicate corruption and reform their judicial systems.

As Romero said during a time of similar urgency, “On this point there is no possible neutrality. We either serve the life of Salvadorans or we are accomplices in their death. … We either believe in a God of life or we serve the idols of death.”

the Web Editors 05-19-2015
Image via  f11photo/shutterstock.com

Image via f11photo/shutterstock.com

More than 60 Asian-American groups came together to file a federal complaint against Harvard University last week, saying Harvard and other Ivy League schools should stop using "racial quotas or racial balancing" in their admissions, according to the Associated Press.

The groups contend that Harvard is using racial quotas that deny admittance to qualified Asian-American students.

the Web Editors 05-18-2015
Photo via 1000 words / Shutterstock.com

Photo via 1000 words / Shutterstock.com

The White House released a statement today outlining restrictions on the federal government’s distribution of weapons, vehicles, and other equipment to police departments.

Newly prohibited equipment includes bayonets, grenade launchers, firearms of .50 caliber or higher, weaponized vehicles, and “vehicles that … utilize a tracked system instead of wheels for forward motion” (i.e. tanks).

05-18-2015
How refreshing it was to be in the presence of leaders of faith are more interested in the needs of the poor and the call of Christ than in being "conformed to this world" and its shallow interests or reducing gospel concerns to a few hot-button social and sexual issues.
Matthew Skinner 05-18-2015
Photo via Gutzemberg / Shutterstock.com

Photo via Gutzemberg / Shutterstock.com

It’s the season of hope.

We rely on hope as a force to inch us forward. No one wants to believe that our best days as individuals or as societies are behind us. Everyone wants to be a hopeful person. Or, at least, there are plenty of people out there eager to make sure everyone feels hopeful.

It’s a season when we’re urged to look for things — data, leaders, movements, promises, trends, exemplars — to provide the ground for hope. For others, it’s a time for sarcasm and mockery.

the Web Editors 05-15-2015
Photo via Sasha Fenix / Shutterstock.com

Boylston Street in Boston, blockaded one week after Boston marathon bombing. Photo via Sasha Fenix / Shutterstock.com

After deliberating for 14 hours over the course of three days, a Boston jury of seven women and five men sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, to death.

The jury found Tsarnaev did not show remorse for his actions, and they rejected the defense argument that Tsarnaev was brainwashed by his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed by police shortly after the bombing.

Photo via Sait Serkan Gurbuz / RNS

Students at Morgan State University in Baltimore listen to Rev. Jamie Washington speak. Photo via Sait Serkan Gurbuz / RNS

Is gay marriage a civil right like black equality? Or is it a sin African-Americans should condemn?

That’s the question at the heart of The New Black, a documentary by filmmaker Yoruba Richen that examines African-American attitudes toward LGBT people leading up to Maryland’s public referendum on gay marriage in 2012.

The film is now enjoying a new life as part of an initiative to get students at historically black colleges and universities to talk about a longtime taboo in the African-American community — sexual identity and the church.

Jim Wallis 05-15-2015
pio3 / Shutterstock.com

pio3 / Shutterstock.com

The center of Christianity has dramatically shifted, and that means the agenda was very different from the northern and western agendas of the older white evangelicals in America and the issues they think most important. Korea could play a particular and convening role as a bridge between the churches of the global north and south.

In sharp and grateful contrast to the old ideologies of global North evangelicals, these global South evangelicals spent their time together wrestling with issues of global economic inequality, the realities of climate change, the imperatives of racial justice, and the need for Christians to wage peace instead of war. Since these are the issues that global evangelical and Pentecostal constituencies are facing in their own lives — and of course, the Bible addresses all of them as the central issues Christians need to confront today — the narrow, white American evangelical agenda had no interest in this global evangelical and Pentecostal forum. The fact is that they represent a different evangelical world.

The Rev. Laura Markle Downton describes solitary confinement to conference parti

The Rev. Laura Markle Downton describes solitary confinement to conference participants. Image via RNS/Perisphere Media

They’re small spaces — sometimes 7 feet wide, 12 feet long. And they’re where some inmates are held, sometimes for days, sometimes for decades.

Religious leaders across the country are speaking out against solitary confinement cells that they say should never be used by juveniles or the mentally ill and rarely by the general prison population.

The debate is taking on new resonance as a Boston jury weighs the death penalty — or a life sentence with 23 hours a day in solitary confinement — for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the convicted Boston Marathon bomber.

Photo via REUTERS / Edgar Su / RNS

Amos Yee waves as he leaves the State Courts after his trial in Singapore May 12, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Edgar Su / RNS

A teenage blogger from Singapore has been found guilty of insulting Christians and of distributing an obscene image of the country’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Amos Yee, 16, had faced three years in prison, but will be put on probation instead, the Associated Press reported.

He was released on a bail of 10,000 Singapore dollars ($7,400).

Rick Jervis 05-12-2015
Texas flag. Photo via argus / Shutterstock.com

Texas flag. Photo via argus / Shutterstock.com

The U.S. Supreme Court is now weighing arguments in the same-sex marriage case it heard on April 28 that could lead to a landmark decision requiring all states to acknowledge the unions.

But don’t count Texas out without a fight.

State lawmakers are considering at least five bills designed to block same-sex marriages, which are currently illegal in the state, and some state leaders say they’ll battle to bar the unions regardless of any Supreme Court decision.

Greg Williams 05-12-2015
Book cover, 'Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God.'

Book cover, 'Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God.'

Douglas writes in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin, tracing the intellectual and cultural genealogy of a “stand your ground” culture — one that polices our public ‘white’ spaces, and kills men and women of color who are in them. Sadly, as the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray show, our cops and our culture are still killing innocent people of color. We aren’t a post-racial culture at all. 

Stand Your Ground takes a cruciform shape: we face the death of the cross in her depiction of the despair of a culture that kills its citizens, before rising in the resurrection hope of a black faith.

Photo via Georgetown University / RNS

President Obama appeared at Georgetown University on May 12, 2015. Photo via Georgetown University / RNS

The African-American boy who grew up without a father, who started his work life as a community organizer on the payroll of a Catholic agency, and who later became U.S. president had plenty to say about poverty in our “winner-take-all” economy.

President Obama spoke May 12 of “ladders of opportunity” once denied to blacks and now being dismantled for poor whites as their difficult lives get that much more difficult.

“It’s hard being poor. It’s time-consuming. It’s stressful,” he said.

Obama joined two policy voices from the left and right in a rare moment of participating in a panel discussion, part of a three-day symposium at Georgetown University on combating poverty. The audience of 700 included 120 Catholic and evangelical leaders.

Usaid Siddiqui 05-12-2015
Photo via Asianet-Pakistan / Shutterstock.com

Muslims hug with each other after Eid-ul-Fitar prayer in Peshawar, Pakistan. Photo via Asianet-Pakistan / Shutterstock.com

What followed after two gunmen were killed trying to carry out an attack on an anti-Muslim “Draw Muhammad Contest” was predictable.

Pamela Geller, the organizer of the event, called for war, American Muslims condemned the attack, and the mainstream media rehashed the very old and exhausting debate about whether Islam has a violence problem.

This routine unfortunately reeks of collective responsibility, an antithesis to sound moral ethics in all societies, including Western ones. 

St Roch Church in the Staten Island borough of New York. Photo via Gregory A. Shemitz / RNS

The United States is a significantly less Christian country than it was seven years ago.

That’s the top finding – one that will ricochet through American faith, culture, and politics – in the Pew Research Center’s newest report, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” released May 12.

This trend “is big, it’s broad, and it’s everywhere,” said Alan Cooperman, Pew’s director of religion research.

Sr. Helen Prejean. Photo via REUTERS / Judy Fidkowski / RNS

Sr. Helen Prejean. Photo via REUTERS / Judy Fidkowski / RNS

Sister Helen Prejean, the Catholic nun and anti-death penalty activist whose story came to fame with the 1995 film Dead Man Walking, took the stand on May 11 in the penalty phase of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial. She said he is “genuinely sorry for what he did,” and told her how he felt about the suffering he caused to the bombing’s victims.

“He said it emphatically,” Prejean said.

“He said no one deserves to suffer like they did.”

Ryan Stewart 05-07-2015
Image via PRRI, Religion & Politics Tracking Survey, May 2015

Image via PRRI, Religion & Politics Tracking Survey, May 2015

The percentage of white Americans (46 percent) who believe blacks and other minorities receive equal treatment to whites in the criminal justice system is exactly the same as it was in 1992 — the year of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. In contrast, only 17 percent of black Americans and 39 percent of Hispanic Americans agree. 

Photo via Bana Gora / RNS

Bana Gora, chief executive of the Bradford-based Muslim Women’s Council. Photo via Bana Gora / RNS

The country’s first women-only mosque will open in Bradford, a 19th-century industrial boomtown and one of the most heavily Muslim-populated cities in the U.K., the Muslim Women’s Council announced.

The plan seeks to provide women with a platform where they can play a larger role in the religious life of their community, a role that would include women leading prayers on Fridays and the introduction of female imams.

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