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The Rise of a New Religious America

In November, Americans elected the first Hindu and Buddhist representatives to Congress. They represent a growing number of religious minorities who are becoming more and more visible. The Washington Post reports:

Now that Protestants are no longer in the majority – as reported in a study released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in October – even the term “religious minority” will need fresh definition in our newly minted minority-majority nation.

Read more here.

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Baby Boomer Nuns Help Revolutionize Health Care

Since Vatican II American Nuns have  worked to fill in the gaps of the American health care system. A new documentary chronicles how these nuns changed the Catholic Church's social justice movement. CNN reports:

"Vatican II was the spark that showed the church isn't just the hierarchy, it's the people," Fishman said. "Sisters from all over the country were inspired to work directly with those that needed their help. These faith-filled people became the most vibrant part of the church who went on to get people excited and passionate about doing God's work and creating real change."

Read more here.

 

 

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Episcopal Bishop Jane Dixon Dies at 75

Bishop Jane Dixon, 75, died in her sleep on Christmas Day, according to the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. Dixon was the second woman consecrated as bishop in the Episcopal Church and the third in Anglican Communion.

A champion for justice and equality, Dixon was selected three times byWashingtonian magazine as one of the 100 most influential women in the Washington metropolitan area. In January 2002, she was named a Washingtonian of the Year. 

From Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of Washington

Called to serve at a time when some refused to accept the authority of a woman bishop, Jane led with courage and conviction, and sometimes at great personal cost.  She demonstrated that same bravery and grace when she brought hope and healing to our country by officiating at the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance service at Washington National Cathedral following the tragedy on 9/11.   

Jane was a fighter for equality and social justice and this led her to speak at the White House against hate crimes and to stand for inclusiveness within the Episcopal Church.  

'Jane is a person who has the courage of her convictions but the grace and humility to know that none of us can equate our ways with God's ways, our thoughts with God's thoughts,' said the late Verna Dozier, Jane’s longtime mentor, in the sermon she preached at Jane’s consecration.

Dixon is survived by her husband of 52 years, David McFarland Dixon, Sr., her three children, and six grandchildren.

Photo: jaymallinphotos / Flickr.

 

 

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Supreme Court Takes Up Landmark Gay Marriage Case

Talking Points Memo reports:

The Supreme Court declared Friday that it will take up same sex marriage next year in what’s sure to be a blockbuster case with sweeping implications.

The Court accepted a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that prohibits federal recognition of same sex marriage. Two appeals courts have ruled that Section 3, which effectively bans same sex couples legally married in their states from receiving federal benefits, is invalid under the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Oral arguments will be next spring and a decision is expected by the end of June

Read more here.

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Progressive Christians Enter the Age of Relevancy

The Huffington Post reports:

It's been a sobering few decades for Christians who work alongside the poor, claim their feminism, respect scientific discovery, care for the earth, and yearn for marriage equality. We felt like the voice of Christianity had been captured by some strange ventriloquist, and it was proclaiming things that often contradicted our faith. We became frustrated with our own irrelevance, as our speech in the public square seemed to be on permanent mute.

And yet, we worked alongside the poor, remembering Mary, the mother of Jesus, a single woman expecting a child. Mary magnificently proclaimed that God had exalted the humble, filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich empty away.

Read more here.

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Mitt, Mormons, and the Religious Test That Wasn’t

Charls C. Haynes writes in The Washington Post:

Buried in the mountain of demographic data preoccupying political pundits this week is one historic statistic that may have far-reaching consequences for religious freedom in America:

Seventy-nine percent of white Protestant evangelicals voted for Mitt Romney, a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – popularly known as the Mormon Church.

After a bitter Republican primary season during which many evangelical leaders supported the “anybody but Romney” effort, prominent conservative Christian ministers lined up behind Romney for the general election. A defining moment came on Oct. 11 when America’s Preacher, the Rev. Billy Graham, publicly signaled support for Romney’s candidacy.

Read more here.

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Should President Obama reach out to the Catholic bishops?

Thomas J. Reese writes in The Washington Post:

One group of Americans that took a beating in the recent election was the U.S. Catholic bishops. Many of them were not shy in expressing their opposition to the administration and their preference for a Romney presidency. They also fought and lost a series of state referendums on gay marriage.

Some in the Obama administration may feel that the election shows that the bishops can be ignored as leaders without followers. But it would be a mistake to count out an institution that has been around for 2,000 years. In fact, this is a situation where being a gracious victor is not only the right thing to do, it makes good political sense.

Read more here.

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Election 2012 Marks the End of Evangelical Dominance in Politics

The Atlantic reports:

Ever since Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, evangelicals have been a powerful political force. Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority organization were credited in part with Reagan's election, having registered millions of evangelicals to vote. Their influence would only grow over the next 25 years: Evangelicals were instrumental in Reagan's reelection, the Republican Revolution of 1994, and both of George W. Bush's victories. But on November 6, 2012, their reign came to an end.

"I think this [election] was an evangelical disaster," Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told NPR. He's right, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

The late Falwell's Liberty University gave former governor Mitt Romney its keynote spot at its 2012 commencement and backed off previous language calling Mormonism a "cult." Billy Graham uncharacteristically threw his support behind the Republican candidate, and his evangelistic association bought full-page newspaper ads all but endorsing Romney. Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition spent tens of millions in battleground states to get out the religious vote.

Read more here.

 

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Liberal Catholics use Election Results to Battle Bishops

CNN reports:

Emboldened by the re-election of President Barack Obama, a cadre of liberal Catholic activists and groups is waging a campaign alleging that America's Catholic bishops are out of touch with Catholic laypeople.

The Catholic bishops, who are in Baltimore this week for a quarterly meeting, spoke out against the Obama administration during the election cycle over what they said were White House violations of religious freedom.

Some bishops also spoke out against legalized gay marriage and abortion rights, positions embraced by many Republicans.

A Sunday opinion piece in the National Catholic Reporter by Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest at Georgetown University, hammered the bishops for their public proclamations during the campaign, saying the church leaders' “political strategy … is not working.”

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Focus on the Family Head Takes Conciliatory Tone After Election

The Los Angeles Times reports:

As the head of Focus on the Family, Jim Daly might be considered one of the nation's leading culture warriors — a title that certainly applied to his predecessor, James Dobson, who founded the organization and built it into a powerhouse of the conservative evangelical movement.

And, to be sure, Daly threw the considerable resources of his organization — which fiercely opposes abortion and same-sex marriage — behind the campaign to defeat President Obama, paying for millions of mailers that listed the presidential candidates' positions on issues that were important to “values voters.”

In the aftermath of the election, however, Daly is willing to say things that few conservative evangelical leaders are likely to say. He believes, for instance, that the Christian right lost the fight against same-sex marriage in four states in part because it is on the losing side of a cultural paradigm. He says the evangelical community should have been considering immigration reform years ago, “but we were led more by political-think than church-think.”

Read more here.

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New Congress to Welcome First Buddhist Senator, Hindu Representative

Christian Post reports:

When the new members of Congress are sworn in on Jan. 3, the institution that once mirrored the nation's Protestant Christian dominance will look slightly more like the religiously diverse nation it represents. The new Senate will seat a Buddhist member for the first time and the House of Representatives will have its first Hindu member.

Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who currently serves in the House of Representatives, won her Senate race last week and will be sworn in as the Senate's first Buddhist. Hirono's House seat will be filled by Tulsi Gabbard, who will become the first Hindu in Congress. Hirono will also be the first Asian-American female and the first person born in Japan to be elected to the U.S. Senate.

Read more here.

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7 Ways Religious Diversity Played in the Election

Stephen Prothero writes for the CNN Belief Blog:

It’s demography, stupid!” is the new mantra for analyzing the 2012 election, in which African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos cast their votes in overwhelming numbers for President Obama.

But religious diversity was another key theme. How so? Let me count the ways.


1. The first Hindu in the House
Thanks to Hawaii’s 2d congressional district, a Hindu has been elected for the first time to the House of Representatives. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat who was born in American Samoa, served in the Hawaii National Guard and was deployed to Baghdad and Kuwait, crushed Republican Kawaki Crowley with over three-quarters of the votes. Gabbard is a Vaishnava Hindu, which means she worships Vishnu. The key scripture in her Hindu tradition is the Bhagavad Gita, a meditation on duty in the face of war.

...

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Conservative Christian on Election Outcome: It Was a Bruising Day

Christian Post has a great round up of election coverage from a Christian perspective. 

Conservative Christians are not hiding their disappointment in the outcome of the 2012 election. Not only did the candidates that they supported not win but they also saw losses in the marriage and pro-life battles.

"'On every level – presidential, congressional, social – it was a bruising day for our movement that no amount of spin can improve," wrote Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, in an email to supporters. "Americans had a choice, and they made it. Is the outcome what we want? Obviously not.'
 

GOP candidate Mitt Romney lost the presidential election to President Barack Obama after losing most key battleground states, including Ohio. Obama surpassed the 270 electoral votes needed to win a second term and also won the popular vote."

Read more here.

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Who Voted?

One of the big questions before Tuesday’s election was whether Barack Obama could replicate the diverse coalition of voters responsible for his 2008 victory. The news? He did. As Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, put it: “In 2012, communities of color, young people and women are not merely interest groups, they’re the ‘new normal’ demographic of the American electorate.”

Here’s a snapshot of the numbers taken from initial CNN exit polls.

Women – 53% of voters - Obama 55%, Romney 44%

The new Senate in January will have 20 women — the highest number in history, 20. Sixteen are democrats and four republicans. All six Senate democratic women facing voters won re-election, along with four new ones. Not all House races are final, but it appears the new House will have 61 democratic women and 21 republican.

People age 18-29 – 19% of voters – Obama 60%, Romney 37%

Despite claims that young people lacked the enthusiasm of four years ago, 19 percent of voters were in that age group – up 1 percent from 2008. But 6 percent fewer voted for the president than four years ago when he attracted 66 percent. Their concern, like many others, is the economy – 12 percent of this age group is unemployed.

White – 72% of voters – Obama 39%, Romney 59%

African-American – 13% of voters – Obama 93%, Romney 6%

Latino – 10% of voters – Obama 71%, Romney 27%

Asian – 3% of voters – Obama 73%, Romney 26%

The white percentage of the electorate is steadily declining. In 2008 it was 74 percent, in 2004 it was 77 percent. The Washington Post’s Peter Wallsten predicts this will lead to “an extended period of internal strife over how a party that skews toward older white men can compete in an increasingly diverse nation.” The African-American share is the same as 2008 at 13 percent, white Latino voters ticked up from 9 percent and Asian from 2 percent.

People who attend religious services weekly – 42% of voters - Obama 39%, Romney 59%

Protestants – 53% of voters – Obama 42%, Romney 57%

Catholics – 25% of voters – Obama 50%, Romney 48%

Jewish – 2% of voters – Obama 69%, Romney 30%

Other – 7% of voters – Obama 74%, Romney 26%

None – 12% of voters – Obama 70%, Romney 26%

The religious divide is growing. Michelle Boorstein and Scott Clement of the Post drilled down and concluded:

“Overall, the faith groups that traditionally support Republicans — people who identify as white Christians, including evangelicals, or as Catholics who attend church frequently — went for Romney in even stronger numbers than they did for McCain in 2008. The gains, however, weren’t enough to turn the tide in Romney’s favor, in part because those groups are a smaller portion of the electorate than they used to be.” 

The Pew Forum has a detailed preliminary analysis of the exit polling.

Overall, Ronald Brownstein’s conclusion in The Atlantic sums it up:

“In many places, particularly across the Sun Belt, Obama mobilized the Democrats' new "coalition of the ascendant," winning enough support among young people, minorities and college-educated whites, especially women, to overcome very weak numbers among blue-collar whites and college-educated men. But in the upper Midwest, where there are not enough of those voters to win, Obama attracted just enough working-class whites to hold the critical battlegrounds of Wisconsin, Iowa, and above all Ohio against Mitt Romney's forceful challenge.”

Duane Shank is Senior Policy Adviser for Sojourners.

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Red-Tape Bill Threatens Financial Reform

OMB Watch reports that the lame-duck Senate may move forward on a bill that could hamstring the SEC as it works to fight fraud and implement financial regulatory reform, tying up the agency in needless red tape and lawsuits:

A pending anti-regulatory bill that targets independent regulatory agencies would significantly curtail the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) ability to protect investors from financial fraud and other economic hazards. The Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act of 2012 (S. 3468) would require independent agencies to conduct formal cost-benefit analyses for all significant rules and would allow the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to review those analyses. This would cause lengthy delays in implementing the financial oversight contained in the Dodd-Frank law. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC), chaired by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), may mark up this bill during Congress’ upcoming lame-duck session, even though no hearings have been held on the bill.

The bill could also hamper the essential work of the FDIC, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, and other government watchdog agencies.

Elizabeth Palmberg is an associate editor of Sojourners and tweets @ZabPalmberg.

 

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