Public Religion in the News Digest, December 13, 2019

Fuller Seminary, LGBTQ inclusion, and the non-discrimination requirements that come with federal student loan programs.

I don’t know if this is another issue that may simply be resolved at a local level (see the following article by David Gushee; this case is not unique). But the case illustrates the conflict between public morality which differs from, and is more tolerant/accepting than, a religiously-based morality. This is exactly the type of case that makes conservative religious leaders fearful of the federal government’s overreach and why conservative leaders put so many eggs in the basket of the ideology of federal judges, who they believe will protect their right to “lawfully discriminate.” It is also the case that when a school accepts a federal loan program status in order that their students can borrow (e.g., Title IV), there are many requirements that accompany that program. And the school has a covenant of behavior; whether that covenant is clear or not is one of the matters in dispute. So many issues wrapped around each other, and lives affected.

The challenges for evangelical schools caught between generations regarding inclusivity.

From the article by David Gushee:

The challenge facing school administrators reminds me of that facing Republicans in Congress who have problems with the behavior of President Donald Trump.It’s lose-lose. If they break with Trump, they lose their base and might get primaried by a Trumpist. If they stay with Trump, they lose everyone else and might lose a general election. See: Collins, Susan (R-Maine).If college administrators break with the exclusionary anti-LGBTQ tradition, they might lose their donors and trustees. But if they fully practice the tradition, they will lose their students.And so, many are paralyzed.For the administrators, here’s one way forward: Get together a critical mass of leaders at progressive-leaning schools and make the break collectively and simultaneously.For the students, here’s your job: These administrators won’t move without more pressure. Keep it up, young folks. Your leaders need your leadership.

US foreign policy re: the status of women and LGBTQ rights is changing—and not for the better.

From the article:

Mulvaney said the theocrats in Trump’s administration will no longer encourage countries to abandon their draconian and deadly anti-LGBT and anti-women’s choice laws. Instead, Mulvaney defended criminalizing and punishing homosexuality as an American religious freedom issue, and that abusing and discriminating against women and gays embodies Christian values. According to Mulvaney and evangelical zealots, it is a disgrace that President Obama dared represent America as promoting women’s and LGBTQ rights.

Are we in the midst of the opposite of an awakening among churches? Why are so many churches apparently asleep instead of awake with moral, transformative energy?

From the article:

Is it possible that we are living through “The Great American Slumber,” a time when too many churches are not pressing for the reform of the nation but lining their pockets, becoming court evangelicals, and traveling around by private jets? Are these churches asleep while the youth of the nation are “woke?” And if that is the case, one can only hope, as this author does, that the number of awakened millennials grows and that they evangelize the slumbering churches.

Ok, Boomer—a Jewish Millennial take…

A respectful but real complaint regarding the assumptions made by Baby Boomers raised in Jewish families. Given the similarities between what the author describes and what I know of Protestant Christian demographics of the same age group, I wonder how much of what she notes is specifically Jewish and how much is part of the zeitgeist.

From the article:

Let me use a crass analogy that ought to resonate with an age group approaching or already solidly in retirement, borrowed from my friend Alana: We see Jewishness as $1 million in an escrow account; you can use all of it, some of it, you can use it now or later—the point is that it’s an inheritance that is there for you, to enrich your life. But the boomers taught their kids the exact opposite: that Jewishness, and Jewish life, was someone else’s bank account—one they were expected to make regular payments into, never themselves reaping any particular rewards.

Please take a look at the graph included in this article regarding presidency and divine choice!

The article presents results of a survey regarding which groups in U.S. society think this president, or any president, is chosen by God. Really. Read this one, please.

Rabbis from Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative movements call for the president to fire his senior adviser because of the adviser’s white supremacist views

From the article in regard to senior adviser Stephen Miller:

“There was not much debate,” [Rabbi] Pesner said. “The rabbis across the spectrum were in agreement right from the beginning. A white supremacist in the White House sends chills down rabbis’ spines.”

With the decline of religious adherence and attendance, will chaplains in public spaces grow in importance?

Article where the author wonders if chaplaincy is becoming a new face of American religion—interfaith, public, present where people are (e.g., work, airports, hospitals) rather than houses of worship. On the one hand, the presence of more chaplains in public spaces makes sense in a population where an increasing number of persons do not identify with a religion. On the other hand, who could/will/should fund chaplains? That already is an issue for some secular community hospitals (less so for religiously-based organizations and the military—where the issue may come up often but where the practice of chaplaincy seems ensconced).

Religious liberty—but maybe only for conservative causes.

William Barr’s Justice Department has made “religious liberty” a, and maybe “the” priority, but only of a certain type, e.g., denial of service to LGBTQ persons or the ACA’s birth control mandate. If this suit by the church against the city for burdening their religious liberty is not resolved locally, it will be interesting to see how the courts treat the matter. As noted above in the article on religious people helping refugees, the Justice Department has not signaled it will equally protect more progressive expressions of religious liberty.

And another example of religious witness conflicting with state policies.

A Supreme Court case to which to pay attention by people of faith whose religion leads them to provide any comfort for undocumented persons.

From the article:

It could even put lawyers in an ethical bind, advocates say, threatening them with prosecution for meeting their obligations to provide zealous and correct representation. For example, Vargas says, an undocumented person who marries a citizen can adjust her status to lawful, but if she leaves the United States, she won’t be permitted to come back. Advising that client to stay would be an important part of representing her—but also potentially a felony.

And another reminder that not all religious actors in public are conservatives.

From the article:

While noting that political labels “rarely map well on religion,” Rogers said she has seen a tendency in the media and society at large to overlook religious practices and religious liberty claims that come from the political left and center, and in turn, a tendency to overemphasize religious liberty claims that come from the political right.“We have people practicing their faith every day in ways that that don’t fit into a conservative cookie cutter approach,” she said. “We have Native Americans who are protesting the passage of oil pipelines across their land. Catholic nuns brought a lawsuit about that recently, in addition to issues raised around Standing Rock and other free-exercise claims made by Native Americans.”Rogers reeled off a handful of others examples: an Arizona humanitarian worker who successfully invoked the Religious Freedom Restoration Act when he was put on trial for providing aid to migrants on the border; a South Texas Catholic diocese protesting the federal government’s efforts to use land on which a historic chapel sits for a border wall; houses of worship participating in the multifaith sanctuary movement to protect immigrants facing deportation; faith-based groups working with the government to serve as refugee resettlement agencies; resistance to the military draft; Sikhs and Muslims pushing for the right to wear headscarves, turbans and beards while serving in the military.

“But you don’t LOOK Muslim!”

Delightful, first-person story, by a Muslim woman who does not “look” Muslim who has written a fictionalized version of her life.

From the article:

As a white-passing Muslim — the daughter of a Jordanian-Syrian immigrant of both Circassian and Western Asian descent and a white, blonde Roman Catholic of Swiss-Austrian descent who converted to Islam when she married my dad — I’ve been privy to Islamophobia my entire life. It’s just that the Islamophobia I’ve been subjected to is a uniquely subtle version.

One might wonder what we do feel comfortable talking about in church…

Recently released Pew Study. Many matters of note, two of which I’m highlighting. One matter is discussion of politics in church. Large differences between Black and evangelical white Protestants and white mainline Protestants, who are much less comfortable. But does the survey indicate talking about politics from the pulpit mostly, only? The second matter that should concern clergy: most people don’t feel comfortable coming to clergy with personal issues.

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