Faith and Politics

Weekly Wrap 6.5.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. I Went to Church with Bruce Jenner, and Here’s What Caitlyn Taught Me About Jesus
Caitlyn knows who Jesus is, and Jesus knows her by name. Whether that sits comfortably on a timeline or blog comment, I know firsthand that Caitlyn has heard the good news. And, Caitlyn has taught me more about Jesus.”

2. And the Award for Trailblazing Feminist Icon Goes to — Miss Piggy
The Sackler Center for Feminist Art awarded the Muppet with its First Award, which recognizes women for being first in their fields and has included the likes of Sandra Day O’Connor, because the character has “qualities that … women need to have to face the world as it is, and she gives us a good smile on top of it all.”

3. In Baltimore Schools, Free Meals for All
"Given the socio-economic status of the city, it's a no-brainer," [parent David T.] Clements said of the program. "Parents can now take that money and apply it to their futures."

4. Study Finds Global Warming Hasn’t Slowed
The latest study, published in Science, reverses previously held thought that global warming was on hiatus. Not so, according to the numbers, which were based on what the scientists say is more accurate land and sea temperature measurements.

Pastor: If DOJ Officials Won’t Read the Torture Report, I'll Read It to Them

Photo via National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Left to Right: Rev. Ron Stief, Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, Colin Jager. Photo via National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, N.J., travelled to Washington, D.C., on June 3 with a simple task: to read the torture report outside the Department of Justice.

“As a pastor, I know that admitting the truth is the first step toward redemption,” said Kaper-Dale.

“When the DOJ admitted in court that it hadn’t even opened, let alone read, the full Torture Report, I knew I had to help the department start the path toward redemption. By reading the report outside the DOJ, I hope to open the hearts of at least a few DOJ employees.”

San Francisco Archbishop Blasts Gender Transitions as Threat to Faith

Photo via David Gibson / RNS

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone speaks with a nun on June 3 in New York. Photo via David Gibson / RNS

Amid the national buzz over transgender celebrity Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner revealing her new female identity, a leading culture warrior in the Catholic hierarchy on June 3 denounced the spread of “gender ideology” and warned that it threatens the very foundation of the church’s faith.

“The clear biological fact is that a human being is born either male or female,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said at the start of an address in Manhattan at a conference aimed at promoting an older form of the Mass in Latin.

Five Faith Facts About Lincoln Chafee: ‘I Have To Be Respectful of Everyone’

Photo via REUTERS / Jessica Rinaldi / RNS

Then-Gov. Lincoln Chafee, right, after signing Rhode Island’s Marriage Equality Act. Photo via REUTERS / Jessica Rinaldi / RNS

Add one more to the table of Democratic contenders for president in 2016. On June 3 Lincoln Chafee, the Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat who served as both governor and senator of Rhode Island, announced he is in the running. Here are five faith facts about this very dark horse (who used to horseshoe for a living).

1. He’s Episcopalian.

Chafee was raised in the church and his positions on many of the issues largely mirror that of many Episcopalians, one of the more liberal Christian denominations. Chafee supports marriage equality, embryonic stem-cell research, and reproductive choice for women, and he opposes the death penalty.

A Duet of Demise

Sepp Blatter & Dennis Hastert

Sepp Blatter in 2007 kojoku /; Dennis Hastert in 2005 by Doug Bowman via

My experience in the worlds of both religion and politics convinces me that one of three issues is at the heart of the catastrophic demise of any leader — money, sex, or power. Sometimes it’s a trifecta of all three together, like the case of John Edwards, the former Democratic presidential candidate. But in virtually every case, a leader’s personal inability to exercise appropriate constraint and control over one or more of these three dimensions of life can lead to careers that crumble and reputations that become shattered.

That’s why, despite all the fascination on the external qualities, traits, and strategies of successful leaders, it’s their internal lives that can be far more decisive in their long-term ability to be transformative leaders — or not. But that requires attentiveness to the powerful but often hidden dynamics of one’s interior life, which “successful” leaders rarely have the time or courage to undertake.

After Death Threats, Bangladeshi Atheist Relocates to U.S.

Taslima Nasrin. Photo courtesy of Reuters / RNS

An internationally renowned atheist activist has relocated from India to the U.S. after receiving death threats from an extremist group that has claimed responsibility for at least one of three machete killings of South Asian atheists this year.

Taslima Nasrin, a Bangladeshi gynecologist, novelist, and poet, arrived in New York state on May 27. The move was orchestrated by the Center for Inquiry, an organization that promotes secularism and has been working with atheist activists in countries where atheism is unprotected by blasphemy laws.

Israeli Soldier’s Ham Sandwich Nearly Lands Him in Military Prison

Photo courtesy of Nitr via Shutterstock / RNS

Photo courtesy of Nitr via Shutterstock / RNS

A U.S.-born Israeli soldier who brought a ham sandwich to his army base was initially sentenced to 11 days in a military prison before a media frenzy prompted the Israel Defense Forces to drop all disciplinary measures.

In a rare apology, IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Motti Almoz wrote on Facebook: “We were wrong. The IDF will continue to keep kosher on the one hand, but will not probe a soldier’s sandwich on the other. There are tensions in Israeli society and there are different stances and opinions. There is room for everyone in the IDF.”

Could Charlie Hebdo Have Been Prevented if France Allowed Religious Instruction?

Photo via Elizabeth Bryant / RNS

Banners hang on Paris City Hall supporting Charlie Hebdo. Photo via Elizabeth Bryant / RNS

The aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shootings has recently moved from the streets of Paris to the classrooms of France, where teachers, students, and policymakers confront religion and free speech.

The Charlie Hebdo cartoons and January’s subsequent rally of support for the satirical magazine revealed France’s full support for freedom of expression. This freedom includes satire: portraits mocking Muhammad, sometimes clothed, sometimes nude. But while France shares an enthusiasm for “free speech” found among other nations, it lacks one aspect of culture found in most countries: religious education.

Vatican Defends Australian Cardinal Against Charges He Disregarded Pedophile Priests

Photo by REUTERS / Tony Gentile / RNS

Australian Cardinal George Pell. Photo by REUTERS / Tony Gentile / RNS

The Vatican threw its support behind its financial chief, Cardinal George Pell, on June 1, after he was accused of being “almost sociopathic” in his handling of clergy sex abuse by a leading member of a papal commission dedicated to tackling the issue.

The Vatican spoke out after commission member Peter Saunders, who was abused by a priest as a child, claimed Pell had not done enough to tackle pedophile priests when the cardinal was Australia’s leading cleric.

British Jews Object to Ultra-Orthodox Sect’s Decree Banning Women from Driving

Photo via REUTERS / Baz Ratner / RNS

Ultra-Orthodox Jews watch a wedding ceremony in Jerusalem on June 10, 2014. Photo via REUTERS / Baz Ratner / RNS

Two prominent leaders of England’s Jewish community and a representative of the chief rabbi have joined in repudiating rabbis from an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect in London that have banned women from driving.

Rabbis from the small Belz community have decreed that as of August children would not be allowed to study if their mothers drive them to school.

The decree was motivated out of a desire to keep “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp,” the rabbis said, according to a report in The Jewish Chronicle.