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Nuns Invite Romney to Spend a Day With Them, and the Poor

According to ThinkProgress:

The group behind the Nuns On A Bus tour that highlighted the ill-effects of the House Republican budget in congressional districts across the country is now setting its sights on the party’s presidential candidate, inviting Mitt Romney to spend a day with the nuns to learn about the plight of America’s poorest citizens.

NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, is inviting Romney to “spend a day with Catholic Sisters who work every day to meet the needs of struggling families in their communities,” according to a release. The group is specifically targeting Romney a day after his campaign released a misleading ad about welfare reform that Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK’s executive director, said “demonize[s] families in poverty” and shows Romney’s “ignorance about the challenges” the poor face in America.

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Should a Priest Be Taking on the Mexican Cartels?

According to a piece in USA Today, the congregants of one Mexican church don't think so:

A crusading Roman Catholic priest who has defied drug cartels and corrupt police to protect Central American migrants said Wednesday that church authorities are trying to smother his activist work with migrants by assigning him to parish duties.

The Rev. Alejandro Solalinde has become well known in Mexico after enduring death threats for publicly denouncing drug gangs and police who rob and kidnap Central American migrants crossing Mexico to reach the United States.

But Solalinde's diocese said he is simply being asked to start operating within the normal parish structure, and run his migrant shelter more like a church ministry and less like a lone activist's non-governmental organization.

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The Religious Left and Atheists: A Missed Partnership?

Writing for Salon, Adam Lee argues:

Despite their shared belief in God, the religious left actually has less in common with the religious right than it does with progressive, nonreligious Americans. But by choosing to play up the importance of religion and religious language, the liberal churches undermined their natural allies outside the pews, while strengthening those who insisted most loudly and most vehemently that society should be run according to the dictates of the Bible. This strategic blunder has guaranteed the relative isolation and diminished influence of the Christian left in the face of a rising tide of religious conservatism.

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Is Religion Damaging The GOP?

Over the weekend, Salon published an excerpt from Mike Lofgren's new book, The Party Is Over:

Having observed politics up close and personal for most of my adult lifetime, I have come to the conclusion that the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism may have been the key ingredient in the transformation of the Republican Party. Politicized religion provides a substrate of beliefs that rationalizes—at least in the minds of its followers—all three of the GOP’s main tenets: wealth worship, war worship, and the permanent culture war.

Religious cranks ceased to be a minor public nuisance in this country beginning in the 1970s and grew into a major element of the Republican rank and file. Pat Robertson’s strong showing in the 1988 Iowa presidential caucus signaled the gradual merger of politics and religion in the party. Unfortunately, at the time I mostly underestimated the implications of what I was seeing. It did strike me as oddly humorous that a fundamentalist staff member in my congressional office was going to take time off to convert the heathen in Greece, a country that had been overwhelmingly Christian for almost two thousand years. I recall another point, in the early 1990s, when a different fundamentalist GOP staffer said that dinosaur fossils were a hoax. As a mere legislative mechanic toiling away in what I held to be a civil rather than ecclesiastical calling, I did not yet see that ideological impulses far different from mine were poised to capture the party of Lincoln.

Read more of the excerpt here

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Gerson: Romney Should Be Able to Share Faith

For The Washington Post, former presidential speechwriter, Mike Gerson, writes: 

In Tampa this month, Republicans will cheer themselves hoarse for a Mormon nominee. And a nation that carefully marks and celebrates every ethnic and religious first won’t take much notice. The Mormon church — for which visibility has often brought persecution — is unlikely to crow about the achievement. And Mitt Romney is probably getting advice to downplay his religion. That was the case in 2007, when Romney explained that he liked the idea of giving a speech on his faith, but “the political advisers tell me, ‘No, no, no, it’s not a good idea. It draws too much attention to that issue alone.’ ”

This cautiousness is understandable. In the typology of sociologists Robert Putnam and David Campbell, Mormons remain a rejected “out-group,” unlike accepted “in-groups” such as Catholics and Jews. Large majorities of Americans perceive Mormonism as “very different” from their own religious beliefs.

But in this case, the counsel of religious reticence is wrong. Romney should not be afraid to highlight his faith.

Read more of his column here

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The Looming Election and Religious Minorities

Souad Mekhennet writes for The New York Times on the growing hostility toward religious minorities as election season approaches in the United States: 

Muslims in Western countries say they have gotten used to the fact that as elections get closer, politicians pump up the volume of accusations against them, whether they are Sunni, Shiite or of another sect. In some European nations, it was the debate over women wearing the veil that set off the attacks. Now in the United States, where pivotal elections are looming, accusations against Muslims have reached a new level. It seems to some that the days of McCarthyism are back.

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Millennials and the 2012 Presidential Election

Eboo Patel on Millennials and the 2012 Presidential Election

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Restoring Credibility for Evangelicals

Writing for Q Ideas, John Morehead examines the 'credibility gap' that evangelcials are facing today:

Evangelicals are having a serious credibility problem in regard to religious pluralism in the public square. This problem is amplified when it comes to Islam in a post-9/11 environment.

Stephen Prothero, in his book Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – and Doesn’t, documents that most Americans, including Christians, lack the most basic understanding of various religions. This was confirmed in the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey in 2010 where atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Mormons, outperformed “Protestant Evangelicals, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.”

Yet this uninformed stance toward other religions has not stopped Christians from forming judgments and taking action on religious issues. After Mitt Romney announced his candidacy for president, many Christians said they would not vote for a Mormon “cult” member. When a Lutheran minister participated in an interfaith memorial service in Yankee Stadium just days after the 9/11 he received emails and letters from those in his denomination accusing him of heresy and terrorism against Christianity. As a result of his work with the Muslim community Rick Warren has been labeled a heretic and promoter of “Chrislam.” And in response to a Hindu offering the opening prayer for Congress, Christians shouted down the religious leader.

If Christians are to overcome this credibility problem, they will have to address the reality of life and faith in the midst of religious diversity. Skye Jethani, Senior Editor of Leadership Journal, has said that if the culture is religiously diverse around us, but the church is not talking about what it means to be a Christian in this environment, then the church will continue to suffer as a result.

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What the Polls Don't Tell Us

Writing for The Huffington Post, Eric Sapp takes a closer look at a recent Pew Forum poll:

Here's a key point in the poll that didn't get much attention: 82 percent of those who know Obama is Christian say they are comfortable with his religion. So voters are basically twice as comfortable with Obama's faith when they know what it is. This is why faith outreach is so important (but more on that later).

Why does the fact that most voters are not comfortable with Obama's religion matter? More than two-thirds of voters (and seven-in-10 women voters) say they want a president with strong religious beliefs. As one might imagine, these numbers are even higher with religious populations. Eight-in-10 Protestants and three-in-four Catholic voters want a president with strong religious beliefs. And let's be honest, they aren't talking about wanting Obama to have strong Muslim beliefs (so the fact that 17 percent of voters think he's Muslim doesn't add to the plus column)!

Read more of Eric's analysis here

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In Wake of Aurora Shootings, Mayor Bloomberg Challenges Candidates on Gun Control

ThinkProgress reports on Mayor Bloomberg's comments on the subject of gun control:

"New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg doubled down on his call for stronger gun regulation in the aftermath of the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, telling MSNBC Monday morning that both presidential candidates must explain how they will address gun violence.

“How anybody can run for the highest office in the country where 48,000 people are going to get killed in the next four years and not have a plan. Maybe they do, maybe they have a secret plan to end the war,” Bloomberg said and called for strengthening existing laws and closing loopholes."

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End in sight for Tennessee mosque fight

From CNN:

A federal judge ordered a Tennessee county to conduct a final inspection of a new mosque, clearing the way for worshippers to possibly begin using the building in time for the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on Thursday.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Todd J. Campbell is the latest development in a two-year battle over the opening of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, near Nashville, that has been marked by legal challenges and anti-Muslim sentiment.

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Making an AIDS-free world a reality

Salon reports on what could be a turning point in the fight against AIDS:

"Just one decade ago, experts from the CIA to the World Health Organization feared that AIDS would infect more than 100 million people, becoming a runaway epidemic and crippling countries. But the world, led by the United States, responded in a massive way and expanded treatment from tens of thousands to millions of people, leading to slight decreases in the past five years in the numbers of people living with HIV in countries from West to Southern Africa, where the epidemic has hit the hardest.

Is the world now at the next turning point in the history of AIDS? Is this a moment when AIDS, not countries, becomes crippled? Doubters are many. But many also believe new prevention tools and ramped up campaigns to protect newborns and women will help them finally outmaneuver a virus that has killed millions for decades."

Find out more here

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Faith in the Heavens, and Beyond

A fascinating piece from The Atlantic looks at faith and spirituality amongst those who have travelled across our universe:

"For many people, space represents its own religion, a spiritual experience on its own, secular terms, with no help from the divine or ancient rituals. But for those who believe and travel into space, the experience can endow their faith with greater significance. There is awe in science because, simply, there is awe in reality. We use science to discover that reality, and some use religion to understand it, to feel it deeply."

Read the full article here

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Race and Religion Remain Key Issues in Presidential Campaign

The Christian Post reports: 

"A new ABC/Washington Post poll released Monday highlights the differences between Americans who believe racial and religious discriminations are non-issues today versus those who feel racism is a factor in selecting our elected leaders. The poll is timely given that its findings apply to both presidential candidates: incumbent Barack Obama, the first African-American U.S. president, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who if elected would be the first Mormon U.S. president.

According to the poll, 62 percent of non-blacks do not see racial discrimination as a predominant issue in their communities. Among this group, 59 percent favor Romney while 34 percent back Obama.

In March, 42 percent of Americans surveyed said candidates' religious beliefs were important compared to 38 percent in the most recent poll. Political analysts view this as a sign that more Americans are becoming comfortable with Romney's religious beliefs as they learn more about him. Sixty-three percent say a candidate's religion does not matter significantly."
 
Read more here

 

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Church of England 'Doesn't Practice What It Preaches' on LGBT

In a column Sunday in the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper, Giles Fraser, the former canon chancellor of St. Paul's Cathedral, set a discussion about the Church of England and its stance toward gay marriage within the context of the Eucharist, saying, "The parish church opens up the jollof rice and communal wafers to all comers, shouldn't we do the same with the marriage feast?"

Fraser continued,

The problem with the CofE on the gay issue is not that it doesn't practise what it preaches but that it doesn't preach what it practises. And orthopraxy (what you do) is more properly basic than orthodoxy (what you think). In practice, the CofE has a reasonably good track record of opening up the jollof rice and the communion wafer to all comers – and certainly better than its official pronouncements would lead onlookers to believe. So why is there such a huge gap between the CofE at parish level and the CofE as expressed by official pronouncements? During General Synod this week, the archbishops came under heavy fire from parish clergy for submitting a shockingly negative response to the government's same-sex marriage proposals in the name of the CofE, as if they constituted the CofE's views. They don't. The parish church is typically a more inclusive place than the church's leadership understand. Here there is neither rich nor poor, black nor white, gay nor straight. The archbishops are out of touch. The parish is the centre of gravity of the church.

Read the column in its entirety HERE.

Image: Stained glass window depicting the Last Supper by Antonio V. Oquias/Shutterstock.

 

 

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