It sits on display “in a glass box in the National Museum of American History.” Written in “Greek, Latin, French & English,” it is the Jefferson Bible, or more accurately “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” At The Wilson Quarterly, Cullen Nutt visits Jefferson’s Bible, “where scripture he deemed implausible or inaccurate fell to the cutting room floor.” The passages he kept, and more importantly the passages he cut, give readers a look into Jefferson’s beliefs, even though “Jefferson was intensely private in these beliefs” during his own time.
In his article for The Washington Post’s OnFaith section, Ross Douthat poses the question of what “if a foreign visitor … wanted to understand the state of religion in America today.” The visitor would see “Joel Osteen preach to a sold-out house” and “Obama defend his shift” on gay marriage “on explicitly religious grounds.” Douthat uses the “hypothetical foreigner” to examine religion and politics in the United States, noting that “the cultural tug-of-war between the Christian right and the secular left” is not as clear-cut as we think it is. “We’re a nation of Osteens and Obamas,” according to Douthat, neither “rigorous Richard Dawkins-style atheists” nor the “equally rigorous Pope Benedict XVI-style Catholics.”
Writing for The New Republic, John Gravois profiles Jeannine Gramick, a renegade nun who happens to live across the street from him in Maryland. After the “Vatican announced that it was effectively instituting a hostile takeover of the Leadership Council of Women Religious,” with Grammick and her organization being singled out in particular, Gravois decided to sit down with her. The group she co-founded in 1977, “New Ways Ministry,” is an “organization that advocates for gay and lesbian Catholics and their rights within the Church, including the right to marry.”
“Suddenly, self-immolation is everywhere,” writes James Verini for The New Yorker. “Yesterday, in Oslo, a man set himself on fire outside the Anders Breivik trial,” he notes. Detailing the history of self-immolation, one that spans from “Greco-Roman mythology” to current times from Asia to Morocco, Verini gives an expansive view of what has become “the preeminent act of defiance.”
At Sojourners, Adelle Banks, writing for Religion News Service, covers the memorial of Chuck Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship. Colson, a former Nixon aide who “served seven months in prison on Watergate-related charges,” was “transformed” by his faith while in prison. An ex-convict turned chaplain, Danny Croce, said, “Though they don’t give you a Bible in school, Chuck made sure you had one in jail.” The service “drew about 1,200 people,” a testament to his influence.
Reacting to lawyer Paul Linton’s criticism of her stance on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts, Teresa Collett defends herself at Public Discourse. Outlining a “pro-life strategy,” Collett sees the court ready to take on the Acts and doesn’t “believe judicial recognition of fetal pain is too small a gain to risk reaffirming the general abortion license created by Roe.” Instead, she argues the proposal “is a powerful part” in a longer legal battle. She states: “I believe a majority of the Court, including Justice Kennedy, is looking for an exit strategy from the cultural combat surrounding abortion.”
Rather “than comply with a federal mandate that the plan provide free birth control,” the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio has dropped its own healthcare plan, Stephanie Simon reports at Reuters. Even though “fewer than 200 of the 2,500 students … had been buying insurance from the university,” the university “didn’t want to put them in a situation where they would have to violate their conscience.” In an extra effort to fight the mandate, the university will also “no longer require its undergraduates to carry insurance.”
Marking the U.K.’s “Dying Matters Awareness Week,” Matthew Engelke, an anthropologist writing for The Guardian, remarks how “ritual, even in this postmodern age, is flourishing,” even if religion is not. Engelke notes churches have less hold on the ritual of funerals now. He studied the British Humanist Association (BHA) and found that within a year, it had “300 humanist celebrants … conduct more than 8,000 funerals.” He concludes that, “in our rituals of death, we get a particularly good glimpse of the post-religious, post-secular condition.”
Tony Blair, writing at The Huffington Post, appeals to readers to consider the importance of understanding other faiths. When a variety of religious organizations “do great work and show selfless sacrifice in some of the poorest and most forgotten parts of the world,” Blair argues, “the existence of such respect and mutual understanding becomes essential.” But the task of understanding “can’t be left only to politics.” Those of faith must provide “the platform for interfaith understanding and respect” on which public discourse is held.
Responding to articles exploring “why Mormons make good business leaders,” Clayton Christensen, a Mormon and Harvard Business School (HBS) professor writes, at The Washington Post, how “values that underpin Mormon leadership … are the same ones espoused by Harvard Business School.” Comparing the HBS case method with Mormonism, Christensen draws parallels between being asked “what great question yielded that answer” at Harvard and how the founder of the LDS church organizing the church “around answers to questions that he asked of God.” It is much more about “how we learned at HBS” for Christensen, something he also sees as central to the LDS church.