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The Lives Lost in the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

posted on October 29, 2018

For The Washington Post, Moriah Balingit, Kristine Phillips, Amy B Wang, Deanna Paul, Wesley Lowery, and Kellie B. Gormly profile the 11 congregants who died on Saturday in the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. They write, “Those slain were Tree of Life’s beating heart, as much fixtures of this synagogue as the fading pews.” They add, “Rose Mallinger, 97, was said to have barely missed a service in decades, for years volunteering to prepare breakfast for her fellow congregants. Joyce Fienberg, 75, enthusiastically took turns as the front-door greeter. Irving Younger, 69, sat in the back and handed out prayer books to those sneaking in late.”

Read at The Washington Post

“You Are Safe Now”: Matthew Shepard Laid to Rest at National Cathedral

posted on October 29, 2018

NPR’s Tom Gjelten and Amita Kelly report, “Matthew Shepard, the young gay man brutally killed on a chilly night in Wyoming 20 years ago this month, was finally laid to rest at Washington National Cathedral on Friday. A reflective, music-filled service offered stark contrast to the anti-gay protests that marred his funeral two decades ago.” Shepard’s family requested that his ashes be buried at the cathedral because they were worried about grave desecration. The Rev. Gene Robinson, who was vilified after becoming the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church more than 10 years ago, helped lead the service. He said, addressing LGBTQ attendees, “Many of you have been hurt by your own religious communities, and I want to welcome you back.”

Read at NPR

Why Are Americans Still Uncomfortable with Atheism?

posted on October 29, 2018

For The New Yorker, Casey Cep writes about the intolerance against atheists throughout American history. The idea that atheism is un-American became more prominent during the Cold War. Cep writes, “It wasn’t politics or economics, some said, that distinguished America from its enemies – it was religiosity.” Two new books, Godless Citizens in a Godly Republic: Atheists in American Public Life and Seven Types of Atheism aim to explore atheism in American history and today. Philosopher John Gray, the author of Seven Types of Atheism, writes, “A godless world is as mysterious as one suffused with divinity, and the difference between the two may be less than you think.”

Read at The New Yorker

“There is Still So Much Evil”: Growing Anti-Semitism Stuns American Jews

posted on October 29, 2018

The New York Times’s Laurie Goodstein reports that recent hate crimes against Jewish Americans and Europeans, including Saturday’s shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 people, are indicative of rising anti-Semitism. Goodstein writes, “Swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti have been cropping up on synagogues and Jewish homes around the country. Jews online are subjected to vicious slurs and threats.” She adds, “What has changed, said several experts in interviews, is that conspiracy theories and ‘dog whistles’ that resonate with anti-Semites and white supremacists are being circulated by establishment sources, including the president and members of Congress.”

Read at The New York Times

Struggling to Bring the “Blue Wave” to Deep-Red Alabama

posted on October 25, 2018

For The New York Times Magazine, Ruth Graham profiles Tabitha Isner, a Democrat and ordained minister running for Congress in the deep-red Alabama’s second district. Graham writes, “Before their wedding, in 2009, Isner and her husband, Shane, wrote a mission statement for their marriage. Isner sums it up as liberal values emerging from their faith: being stewards of God’s creation, caring for ‘the least of these’ and being open to go where the Holy Spirit leads them.” Graham adds, “She talks about policy ‘in the pastoral way rather than the academic way,’ she told me, to avoid voters’ hangups about jargon. She frames paid parental leave as a matter of family values, and the section of her website devoted to criminal justice starts with the declaration that ‘we are all sinners.”’

Read at The New York Times Magazine

Cory Booker Could Be a Candidate for the “Religious Left”

posted on October 25, 2018

Religion News Service’s Jack Jenkins profiles Democratic New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who has done outreach to the religious left. Booker, a member of a National Baptist church, said, “I’ve studied Torah for years. Hinduism I’ve studied a lot. Islam, I’ve studied some, and I’ve been enriched by my study. But, for me, the values of my life are guided by my belief in the Bible and in Jesus.” The John C. Danforth Center’s own R. Marie Griffith said that the power of the religious left, which “went underground” after President Jimmy Carter lost re-election, has returned with the rise of figures like Booker and the Rev. William Barber II.

Read at Religion News Service

China’s Hidden Camps

posted on October 25, 2018

BBC reports on internment camps for the estimated hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, China. Recent satellite images reveal that the facilities are rapidly expanding, but the Chinese government, which perceives Muslims as disloyal to the country, denies that they are detaining them without due process and calls the camps “vocational schools” for combatting “terrorism and religious extremism.” The BBC writes, “Harsh new legal penalties have been introduced to curtail Islamic identity and practice – banning, among other things, long beards and headscarves, the religious instruction of children, and even Islamic-sounding names.”

Read at BBC

Why They Stay. Why They Can’t: New York Catholics Wrestle With Their Faith Over Abuse Allegations

posted on October 23, 2018

For The New York Times, Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Mariana Alfaro profile ten Catholic New Yorkers’ reactions to the Catholic sex abuse crisis. Ferré-Sadurní and Alfaro write of Thomas McGarvey, who says he was sexually assaulted when he was 16 by a priest in his local church, “Though he remains skeptical of clergymen and the Vatican hierarchy, Mr. McGarvey said he has never allowed the abuse to damage his faith in God. To do so, he said, would let evil win.” Jacques David, a 50-year-old from Kentucky who was raised evangelical, said the sex abuse crisis reveals deep-seated problems with the church hierarchy. “Christ lives and dwells in us. And so I think, as lay people, we have a sense of what is right and what is wrong. I think it’s time for us to stand up and say, ‘This is unacceptable,’” he said.

Read at The New York Times

Vatican Summit Enters the Home Stretch. But Where’s the Finish Line?

posted on October 23, 2018

Religion News Service’s David Gibson reports, “Entering the final days of a monthlong debate over how to engage young people, a global meeting of Catholic bishops, other church officials and several dozen young Catholics is facing the dicey task of drafting a final report. The challenge will be to incorporate the wide array of difficult issues raised here while still getting two-thirds of the body to approve the document.” Many topics have been discussed at the synod: the sex abuse crisis, LGBTQ acceptance, and marketing the church to younger people.

Read at Religion News Service

Bible Museum Says Five of its Dead Sea Scrolls Are Fake

posted on October 23, 2018

CNN’s Daniel Burke reports, “The Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC says five of its most valuable artifacts — once thought to be part of the historic Dead Sea Scrolls — are fake and will not be displayed anymore.” Scholars had previously warned the Green family, the evangelical owners of the museum, about the possibility of the scrolls’ inauthenticity. Burke adds, “Monday’s revelations are not the first time the Greens have courted controversy with their artifacts collection. In 2017, the Green family’s company, Hobby Lobby, agreed to pay $3 million and return artifacts smuggled out of Iraq as part of a settlement with the Justice Department.”

Read at CNN