Shariah or Not, Muslim Divorces Can Get Tricky

New Jersey lawyer Abed Awad has been involved with more than 100 cases that involved some component of Shariah, or Islamic law, and knows firsthand how complicated things can get.

In one of those cases, a woman claimed she was married to a man according to Islamic law in her native west Africa. The man asserted there was no valid marriage, leaving a judge to decide whether the two were ever legally married in the first place.

If the judge rules they were married, there will be a divorce, and she will receive alimony and a share of marital assets. If the judge rules that there is no marriage, then the woman will be left with nothing from her relationship.

To make a ruling, the judge will need to consider what Shariah, as understood in one corner of western Africa, says about what constitutes a legal marriage. He will likely have to consult Islamic law experts and apply what he learns to his decision.

But what if American judges were prohibited from considering Shariah and other foreign laws, as many state and national politicians want to see happen?

Did Jesus Get Married and Have Children?

It’s amazing what a difference six words can make in our understanding of a figure as central as Jesus to the lives and faith of so many. Even historians and others who don’t claim Christianity personally are intrigued by the scrap of text recently discovered to contain, in Coptic, the sentence fragment: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’”

Was this Jesus of Nazareth? is it authentic? Did the author have an original source to pull from, or simply word-of-mouth legend? After all, this writing seems to be several hundred years newer than the synoptic gospels. Perhaps Jesus was speaking in parable, as he often did, or maybe the “wife” was the Church, which often is referred to as “the bride of Christ.” Who knows? It’s likely we never will, but the buzz that this find creates is more interesting to me than the source of the scripture itself.

Why do we care so much if Jesus had a wife and kids or not? Why does it seem to matter if he died without ever having sex?

Is the Catholic Hierarchy Moving Toward the GOP?

RNS photo courtesy Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Some question the Catholic bishops' alignment with the Republican Party. RNS photo courtesy Archdiocese of Philadelphia

A series of recent developments are renewing questions about the Catholic bishops' alignment with the Republican Party, with much of the attention focusing on comments by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, who said he “certainly can’t vote for somebody who’s either pro-choice or pro-abortion.”

In a wide-ranging interview published Sept. 14, Chaput also echoed the views of a number of prominent bishops when he praised Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan for trying to address the “immoral” practice of deficit spending through his libertarian-inflected budget proposals.

"Jesus tells us very clearly that if we don’t help the poor, we’re going to go to hell. Period. There’s just no doubt about it,” Chaput told National Catholic Reporter.

“But Jesus didn’t say the government has to take care of them, or that we have to pay taxes to take care of them. Those are prudential judgments. Anybody who would condemn someone because of their position on taxes is making a leap that I can’t make as a Catholic.”

Chaput stressed that he is a registered independent “because I don’t think the church should be identified with one party or another.” But he said that the Democratic Party’s positions on abortion rights, gay rights, and religious freedom “cause me a great deal of uneasiness.”

He added that economic issues are “prudential judgments” open to a variety of legitimate approaches. Abortion, on the other hand, is “intrinsically evil” and must always be opposed.

That is a talking point voiced by many Catholic conservatives, including Ryan himself. Last Friday, Ryan told the Christian Broadcasting Network that opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, and support for religious freedom, are all “non-negotiables” for a Catholic politician while “on other issues, of economics and such like that, that’s a matter of prudential judgment.”

She Said — Egalitarianism: Men, Submit to Your Wives

Male and female icons, Pedro Salaverría /

Male and female icons, Pedro Salaverría /

Editor's note: This is a He Said, She Said on the issue. To read this author's husband's take, go HERE.

Who would have thought that five years into our marriage we would still be having this debate? Gender roles. Egalitarianism. Complementarianism. 

If you've come here first, please read my husband's take on the issue before continuing on.

We tend to think fairly similarly, though he likes to think himself a complementarian, while I tend toward the egalitarian label. I love words, but that's all these are: words. I think it's all in how you define it for yourself. But since he brought it up … 

He Said — Egalitarianism: Who Needs Repentance Anyway?

Bride and groom on beach, szefei /

Bride and groom on beach, szefei /

Editor's note: This is a He Said, She Said on the issue. To read this author's wife's take, go HERE.

My wife and I have been embroiled in a deep debate lately. It involves gender roles, complementarianism, egalitarianism, and often threats of a kick landing somewhere on my body. It’s not that we haven’t worked this sort of thing out within our marriage — I take out the trash, she does the laundry — but somehow despite both being raised in Christian households we do not see theologically quite eye to eye on this issue.

I happen to fall on the side of complementarianism. For me this does not threaten the basic equality or God-given image and sense of worth that belongs to all humankind. But I do happen to think men and women were designed differently biologically and otherwise. Yesterday morning in yoga, I did my downward dog alongside 15 women and one other guy. I work in the same building as a special needs school with 22 female teachers and only one dude. I am happy to say that there are some areas women seem to be drawn toward, and in my opinion, excel in.

My wife on the other hand would like to argue (and does) that to pointing out any differences whatsoever leads necessarily to thinking in terms of an inequality. She believes that many of the Biblical mandates on gender roles have more to do with timing and culture than God-given norms.

'Abstinence-Only' Exposed

Girl wearing a "purity ring" that says, "It's for you ... not him." Photo by LovelySoulsCollide via Wylio.

"Chastity is getting a makeover. Surrounded by a sex-saturated society, millions of young people are pledging to remain virgins until their wedding night. But how, exactly, are evangelical Christians convincing young people to say no when society says yes?"

So writes Christine J. Gardner in her brilliant new book Making Chastity Sexy: The Rhetoric of Evangelical Abstinence Campaigns.

Making Chastity Sexy is important and perceptive in a profound way that casts light on a large subject — religion in general and evangelicalism in particular when it comes to attitudes toward sex, life, and religion.

Gardner (an evangelical herself who teaches at an evangelical school) takes her readers far beyond the mere investigation of sex education/abstinence campaigns to make the point that individualistic society and the autonomous self have become the sole means of the "wait until marriage" virginity-sanctifying movement.

In other words the evangelicals are using pop culture techniques just to make abstinence "sexy."

Let's Talk About (Complementary) Sex

On the one hand, I’m encouraged when Christians can have more honest, open dialogue about sex and sexuality in the public forum.

On the other, I’m more than a little distressed when the matter at hand is about “Biblically-based” sexual submission.

For those unfamiliar, there are (at least) two camps in the Christian conversation about gender roles, one of which we can call “egalitarian,” and the other calls itself “complementarian.” The implication of the latter is that, though we are not the same, we males and females fit together in many ways like pieces of a puzzle, one complementing something the other lacks, and  vice-versa.

And if the definition of complementarianism stopped there, I would be on board; but in truth it’s a thinly veiled case for women submitting to men. Sorry, but this isn’t complementary; it’s authoritarian.

In a recent post, Rachel Held Evans explained the troublesome issues with complementarianism well:

…For modern-day Christian patriarchalists (sometimes called complementarians), hierarchal gender relationships are God-ordained, so the essence of masculinity is authority, and essence of femininity is submission. Men always lead and women always follow. There is no sphere unaffected by this hierarchy—not even, it seems, sex.

Men Can't Have It All, and Why They Never Did

Overwhelmed man image, Rene Jansa /

Overwhelmed man image, Rene Jansa /

Five of my female Facebook friends had posted the article in a span of about two hours. The headline, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” stared at me, daring me to respond.

Read it, first. Then come back here. Go ahead, take the half-hour (it’s a long one). Read the WHOLE thing.


OK, so there are some good points in there, right? If you want to be a political power player in Washington, D.C., forcing you to live long-distance from your husband and children, maaaaybe you’re not going to be the happiest person ever. Maybe you can’t “have it all.”

But why is that the question to begin with? Why does this topic of conversation perennially rear it’s head to make women feel like they’re not doing it right? And why is the question never asked of men?

Obama and the Two Types of Marriage

In the wake of President Obama's declaration of his personal support for the right of same-sex couples to marry under civil law, the nation is understandably focused on debating the merits of this position. Three related points from President Obama's announcement, however, deserve our attention as well.

First, President Obama noted that there is an important difference between civil marriage and religious marriage. The state defines civil marriage, which serves as the gateway for a wide variety of government benefits, rights and privileges. Religious marriage, on the other hand, is defined solely by religious communities.

These categories may be fuzzy in our minds because current law not only respects the ability of clergy and religious communities to define and bless religious marriage, it also allows clergy to solemnize civil marriage. That's why one often hears a minister conclude a wedding by saying, "By the authority vested in me by the state of X, I now pronounce you husband and wife."

Setting aside the oddity of a minister claiming the authority of the state rather than a higher power, the fact that the state allows clergy to bring a civil marriage into being does not mean it can require clergy to bless or recognize any relationship the state defines as civil marriage.