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Links on R&P from around the web

Is Trump “Morally Unfit” to Be President? Not if Americans Can’t Agree on What’s Good and Bad.

posted on April 23, 2018

For The Washington Post, R. Marie Griffith, director of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, writes that Americans wildly diverge in what they consider to be moral behavior. Determining President Trump’s “moral fitness”, in turn, is limited by the absence of a consensus of what is right or wrong. “Studying these battles together shows that Americans have a core disagreement about women’s equality with men, and the significance of sexual behavior, that has deepened over the past century,” Griffith writes. “There is an overarching divide between opposing views about the very meaning of morality.”

Read at The Washington Post

Black Network’s Farm-To-Church Movement Brings Fresh Food to Baltimore

posted on April 23, 2018

Religion News Service’s Adelle M. Banks reports that some Baltimore black churches are growing their food or networking with black farmers for produce, in order to bring fresh and healthy produce to urban black neighborhoods. “The goal is to provide alternatives to the less nutritious and more expensive foods often sold at convenience stores in neighborhoods that don’t have groceries nearby,” Banks writes. The Black Church Food Security Network informally began as a stopgap response to store closures after the 2015 Freddie Grey riots, and now counts 10 black churches among its ranks, a number which will likely grow as more churches build their own gardens.

Read at Religion News Service

A Cassandra Cry Against Pope Francis

posted on April 23, 2018

The Atlantic’s Emma Green reviews Ross Douthat’s latest book, To Change the Church. Douthat, a New York Times columnist, has been a vocal critic of Pope Francis and what he sees as the pontiff’s liberal bent when it comes to doctrine. Green writes, “His focus is almost always on one topic: the pope’s efforts to address issues related to family.” Green continues, “While most Catholics might not disagree with Douthat’s claims about doctrine outright, some—including the pope—would likely foreground their description differently. Catholicism, like any religion, is indeed a set of principles and writings and teachings, but it is also the lived experience of the body of believers—the church, little c. Lived religion is inevitably messier than doctrine.”

Read at The Atlantic

“I Have No Fear of Death”: Barbara Bush on Faith and Finality

posted on April 18, 2018

The Washington Post’s Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports that former First Lady Barbara Bush died on Tuesday at the age of 92. Wootson describes Bush’s beliefs on death and God, based on an interview she gave in 2013. “I’m a huge believer in a loving God,” Bush said. “And I have no fear of death, which is a huge comfort because we’re getting darned close.”

Read at The Washington Post

How Liberty University Built a Billion-Dollar Empire Online

posted on April 18, 2018

For The New York Times Magazine, Alec MacGillis reports that in 2016 Liberty University, a non-profit evangelical college, netted nearly $1 billion in total revenue, much of it from federal tax dollars. Liberty’s astounding growth can be attributed to its lucrative online courses, which offer dubious educational value. Liberty has also encountered controversy due to the close relationship between Jerry Falwell Jr., its president, and President Trump. MacGillis writes, “One of the top orders of business for Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has been to roll back Obama-era regulations on online-degree providers.”

Read at The New York Times Magazine

How Muslims, Often Misunderstood, Are Thriving in America

posted on April 17, 2018

For National Geographic, Leila Fadel writes that more 100 mosques in the United States were targeted last year with threats, vandalism, or arson. “And yet, Muslim communities in America are thriving,” she writes. “I visited Muslims, in the South, West, Northeast, and Midwest. What I found was a variety of race, practice, class, culture, and language that I’d seen just once before—in Mecca, during the hajj, the pilgrimage that the roughly 1.8 billion Muslims around the world are obligated to make once in their lifetime.”

Read at National Geographic

What Happens When a Church Dedicated to Fighting White Supremacy Is Accused of It

posted on April 17, 2018

The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein reports that Washington’s All Souls Unitarian Church, which has billed itself as a bastion of progressivism, stands accused of racism. The Rev. Susan Newman Moore, who was the only African American on the church’s full-time staff before resigning last summer, alleges that she was underpaid, the target of racially motivated slights, and ultimately forced out by church leadership. “After nearly 200 years on the social justice forefront leading on everything from fighting slavery and segregation to legalizing same-gender marriage, All Souls’ attendance surged after the election of President Trump,” Boorstein writes. “Now some congregants say they feel the conflict over Moore has revealed their church home as just another example of the racism they have been fighting.”

Read at The Washington Post

This Firebrand Atheist Was Just Fired after Allegations of Financial Conflicts and Sexual Assault

posted on April 17, 2018

Buzzfeed News’s Peter Aldhous reports that American Atheists, one of the most prominent secular organizations in the U.S., abruptly terminated David Silverman as their president on Thursday. Silverman, who had been president of American Atheists since 2010 and was credited for increasing the organization’s publicity, has been accused of financial and sexual misconduct, including sexually assaulting two women in separate incidents. Aldhous writes, “Like many other communities in the #MeToo era, the atheist movement is undergoing a reckoning over the treatment of women in its ranks.”

Read at Buzzfeed News

Jailed Chinese Pastor’s U.S. Family Seeks Mercy

posted on April 17, 2018

The Associated Press’s Yanan Wang writes that the Rev. John Sanqiang Cao was sentenced last month to seven years in prison by the Chinese government. Cao, whose family resides in the U.S., was arrested in March 2017 after decades of work organizing “house” churches and Bible schools not sanctioned by the Chinese state. The pastor’s son, Ben Cao, said, “Nothing my father organized was ever political. It was always just religious or charitable.” Wang adds, “Analysts say the government increasingly views Christianity’s rise in China as a threat to its rule, and may be using prominent figures such as Cao as an example to intimidate nascent movements.”

Read at The Associated Press

Going to Church with Jimmy Carter

posted on April 16, 2018

For The New York Times, Margaret Renkl writes about attending former President Carter’s Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. Renkl writes, “President Carter is not a pacing, gesturing, booming-voiced orator, but he is a brilliant teacher — moving nimbly between his memories, his concerns for the world and what the Acts have to say about the right relationship of human beings to one another.” She adds, “Jimmy Carter still has faith in this country, and I hoped his Sunday school lesson might restore my faith, too.”

Read at The New York Times