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Anti-Semitism Casts Long Shadows Over Jewish Festival of Lights

posted on December 4, 2018

Religion News Service’s Yonat Shimron reports, “In the days and weeks leading up to Hanukkah, which began Sunday (Dec. 2), many Jews have felt defeated as a steady wave of anti-Semitic incidents roiled the country.” Last week, a psychology professor in New York found swastikas spray-painted outside her office; two weeks ago, a mural honoring the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre was vandalized on the campus of Duke University; three weeks ago, a man interrupted a performance of Fiddler on the Roof in Baltimore by yelling “Heil Hitler.” Shimron writes, “As they celebrate an ancient military victory, in which a band of Jewish rebels rose up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors and rededicated the temple in Jerusalem, many are still reeling from Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue shooting.”

Read at Religion News Service

GOP Lawmakers’ Reality: They Won’t Cut Planned Parenthood

posted on December 4, 2018

POLITICO’s Alice Miranda Ollstein reports, “Congressional Republicans are giving up on years of promises to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood as Democrats prepare to take control of the House, a major setback for the conservative movement after controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House for the past two years.” The president of the anti-abortion group Students for Life of America said, “It’s a huge frustration. We worked so hard to elect supposedly these pro-life Republican officials, and we expected results.” Miranda Ollstein adds that some anti-abortion groups are planning to defund Planned Parenthood through other avenues, like state laws, federal regulation, and the courts.

Read at POLITICO

Facing the Flock

posted on December 4, 2018

The Washington Post’s Terrence McCoy writes about the difficulties South Dakota priest Brian Christensen must face in addressing his congregants after another priest at his church was accused of sexual abuse. After the arrest of the Rev. John Praveen, Christensen said to his congregants of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, “Jesus knew suffering in so many ways … Today, we as a parish family are suffering. Suffering because our brother has been arrested. A child and a family are suffering. The church, the body of Christ, our parish community of the cathedral is suffering.”

Read at The Washington Post

Advent, Explained

posted on December 4, 2018

Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson writes about the season of Advent, which begins four Sundays before Christmas and is often celebrated with countdown calendars. Wilkinson writes, “In addition to being about the anticipation of Jesus’s birth (the first coming), Advent is also set aside as a time of quietness and austerity, meant to keep Christians from glossing over the brokenness of the world and to encourage them to anticipate the Second Coming.” She adds, “Advent calendars (in one form or another) were adapted some time in the 19th century by German Lutherans as a way to mark the days of the season leading up to Christmas.”

Read at Vox

How a Corporation Convinced American Jews to Reach for Crisco

posted on December 3, 2018

For NPR, Deena Prichep reports on how Crisco, a kosher, vegetable-based shortening often used to fry latkes, found its way into the recipes of American Jews, especially around Hanukkah. Kerri Steinberg, author of Jewish Mad Men, reveals that in 1933 New York ad man Joseph Jacobs used a cook book called Crisco Recipes for the Jewish Housewife to promote Crisco to Jewish immigrants, who were eager to assimilate. Rachel Gross, a Jewish studies professor at San Francisco State University and a former postdoctoral fellow at the Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, said, “The Yiddish-speaking mother, presumably, is going to bring a knowledge and a familiarity with traditional Ashkenazi baked goods. And the English-speaking daughter is presumably, Procter & Gamble hopes, going to bring a willingness to use modern products like Crisco.”

Read at NPR

Thomas Altizer, 91, Proponent of “God Is Dead” Theology, Dies

posted on December 3, 2018

The New York Times’s Katharine Q. Seelye reports, “Thomas J. J. Altizer, one of a handful of radical theologians in the 1960s who espoused that ‘God is dead,’ died on Wednesday in Stroudsburg, Pa. He was 91.” In 1966, Altizer, a religion professor and self-described Christian atheist, appeared in a controversial Time magazine cover story on the tenuous relationship between science and religion. Seelye writes, “He had inflamed evangelicals, and his lasting effect may be that he helped give rise to the religious right.”

Read at The New York Times

George H.W. Bush Helped Lead GOP Toward Evangelicalism

posted on December 3, 2018

For The Washington Post, Lori Johnston writes about the role of former President George H. W. Bush, who died on Friday, in shaping the Republican Party’s evangelicalism. A lifetime Episcopalian, Bush began to talk publicly about his faith as a candidate for president in 1988. “Ronald M. Green, a professor emeritus for the study of ethics and human values at Dartmouth College, says the Bush family has led, to some extent, the movement of patrician Republicans from centrist thinking to conservative Christian opposition to birth control, abortion and research on reproductive health, such as the use of stem cells or fetal tissue in transplantation,” Johnston adds.

Read at The Washington Post

Prosecutors in Abuse Case Search Office of Major U.S. Cardinal

posted on November 29, 2018

The Associated Press’s Nomaan Merchant reports, “Prosecutors investigating a sexual abuse case against a Houston-area priest searched the offices Wednesday of the local archdiocese, which is led by the cardinal who is heading the Roman Catholic Church’s response in the U.S. to sexual misconduct.” The investigation is raising questions about whether Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston failed to address two sexual assault accusations against Manuel La Rosa-Lopez nearly 20 years ago. Merchant writes, “Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon, whose office conducted the search Wednesday, said authorities were looking for employment records and disciplinary records related to La Rosa-Lopez, along with anything that might lead to the discovery of other potential crimes.”

Read at The Associated Press

Crystal Cathedral, Home to the “Hour of Power,” Transforms Into Catholic Seat

posted on November 29, 2018

For Religion News Service, Heather Adams writes about the Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, California, the former base of the Rev. Robert Schuller’s 1970s evangelist broadcast Hour of Power. The building is now being transformed into a Catholic church, renamed Christ Cathedral. The Catholic Church bought the 128-foot-tall glass building for $57.5 million. Richard Heim the Catholic division CEO of Clark Construction Group, said, “The building is going to continue its journey and its purpose of meeting the spiritual purpose of the people.”

Read at Religion News Service

For Californians Living in Their Cars, A Church Parking Lot Can Briefly Be Home

posted on November 29, 2018

For The Washington Post, Kimberly Winston writes about houses of worship in California and Washington that are running safe-parking programs, which provide secure overnight parking for people living out of their cars. Winston writes, “Most of the congregations open their buildings to their guests for a couple of hours, providing bathrooms, recharging stations and sometimes a kitchen.” The safe-parking coordinator at Lake Washington United Methodist Church in Kirkland, Washington, said, “Our Gospel tells us to welcome the stranger, to take care of the widows and orphans.”

Read at The Washington Post