The Daniel fast is growing in popularity, often prompted by Christians’ desire for a deeper form of prayer. Many are reporting lasting physical benefits, too.
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An acquaintance gave a few of us a ride after the annual post-Yom Kippur feast. Stuffed with bagels, lox, kugel, and every kind of pound cake imaginable, the four of us chatted happily about life in D.C., past trips to Israel, and guilt over skipping religious services earlier that day.
And then the conversation turned to dating.
“Would you ever marry a non-Jew?” Sharon asked from the backseat. Answers varied; one person said she wasn’t sure, while another said she might consider marrying someone who was willing to convert. Debates about intermarriage, or marriage outside of the faith, are common in the Jewish community, but her question still struck me as remarkable. Here were four twentysomething women who hardly knew each other, already talking about the eventuality of marriage and apparently radical possibility that we would ever commit our lives to someone unlike us. This conversation seemed very “un-Millennial”–as a whole, our generation is marrying later, becoming more secular, and embracing different cultures more than any of our predecessors. If the same question had been asked about any other aspect of our shared identities–being white, being educated, coming from middle or upper-middle class backgrounds—it would have seemed impolite, if not offensive.
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A recently translated book by the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio reveals a religious leader who understands the limits of religion.
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Every woman in this story is confoundingly non-descript. Short hair, often grey. Conservative dress. Unmarried; soft-spoken. Most are well into their seventies, and all will tell you that their way of life is dying out. They will also tell you, with surprising conviction, that the world is in peril.
They are Roman Catholic sisters, from a variety of orders—Dominican, Mercy, Passionist—but don’t think Whoopie Goldberg or a young Sally Field. While many of their aged peers are living out their days in quiet convents, these women are digging gardens and offsetting carbon. They’re as well-versed in solar and geothermal technology as they are in the Gospels of Luke and John, and some wear Carhartts and work boots like they’re habits. At the heart of the women’s action is a belief that the changing climate and world demand a new kind of vocation – that Ave Marias won’t cut it anymore, but maybe clean energy will. Called Green Sisters, or Sisters of Earth, they are pushing the bounds of their tradition toward a new, and deeply spiritual, kind of environmentalism.
Read more. [Image: Angela Evancie]
DUBLIN—Sarah Lennon’s son Ethan is just 7 weeks old, and she’s already stressing out about his applications for primary schools. A lapsed Catholic, she hopes to land him a spot at a sought-after multi-denominational school in suburban Dublin—one of few alternatives to the Church-run schools in her neighborhood.
“It’s quite urgent to have our name down early and have the Catholic school here as a back up,” Lennon said. “But the Catholic school may not admit our son, unless we have his form in early, because he won’t be baptized.”
Lennon is among a growing number of Irish parents who no longer identify with the Catholic Church and struggle to find schools that don’t clash with their convictions. In Ireland—once considered the most Catholic country in the world—the Catholic Church runs more than 90 percent of all public schools. Other religious groups operate another 6 percent. But Ireland’s religiosity has waned in recent years, amid changing demographics, rising secularism and reports of Church sexual abuse and cover-ups.
Weekly church attendance among Irish Catholics dropped from more than 90 percent to 30 percent in the past four decades. Those in Ireland who identify as religious plummeted from 69 percent in 2005 to just 47 percent last year, according to a WIN-Gallup International poll. And the number of people who chose “no religion” in the last census soared, making non-believers the second largest group in the nation.
These changes are starting to crack the Catholic Church’s monopoly on Irish education, but not quickly enough to meet growing parental demand for school diversity.
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“Ok, Frommer, what’s your Religious Support Plan for the feast of Suck-it?” I almost laughed, but when a superior officer asks you a serious question in the U.S. Army, that’s usually not the best response. Every year, Jews around the world build and dwell in temporary booths called sukkot, just as our biblical ancestors did on their journey from Egypt to the Land of Israel. In 2012, as the only Jewish chaplain stationed in Kuwait, the festival of Sukkot was clearly in my Area of Responsibility, and as the first cantor ever to serve in military chaplaincy, I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be the last. “Sir, I’ll make sure the Jewish soldiers have the sukkah they need,” I answered smartly. It was a plan as simple as it was foolproof, except for one tiny detail. I had no idea how I was going to do it.
Perhaps I might have been more prepared if I’d grown up like everyone else I seemed to meet in the Army—on a farm in the Midwest, chopping down trees and handcrafting pigpens. As it happened, my childhood on the Upper East Side of Manhattan involved plenty of construction, but mostly with Lincoln Logs and Lego sets, and always following the directions. One year my family actually tried to assemble a life-size sukkah at our summer home in Claverack and though we never completed the project, we became too emotionally attached to our modest progress to ever dismantle it. The PVC pipes of our unfinished attempt remained in the backyard for a decade, standing amidst plant growth like some ancient ruin, silently waiting for UNESCO to arrive and add it to the World Heritage List.
Read more. [Image: David Frommer]
Despite secularism and atheism being on the rise, some areligious students feel discriminated against—at times violently. Now teachers across the U.S. are creating Secular Safe Zones to “curtail anti-atheist bullying, discrimination, and social isolation.”
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In an exclusive interview, the head of the Gulenist movement speaks on anti-Semitism, his particular brand of Islam, and why he’s been in hiding for 14 years.
For most gay Americans in the 20th century, the church was a place of pain. It cast them out and called them evil. It cleaved them from their families. It condemned their love and denied their souls. In 2004, a president was elected when religious voters surged from their pews to vote against the legal recognition of gay relationships. When it came to gay rights, religion was the enemy.
A decade later, the story is very different. Congregations across the country increasingly accept, nurture, and even marry their gay brethren. Polls show majorities of major Christian denominations — including American Catholics, despite their church’s staunch opposition — support legal gay marriage. Leaders of some of the most conservative sects, like the Southern Baptists, have moved away from the vitriolic rhetoric of yesteryear and toward a more compassionate tone. Mormons march in gay-pride parades. A sitting Republican senator, a Methodist from the heartland state of Ohio, says the question was settled for him by “the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.” A new pope says, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
Read more. [Image: Stacy Bengs/Associated Press]
By now, millions of people have watched FOX news host Lauren Green’s grilling of writer Reza Aslan. Last week, the clip of the interview made the Internet flare up—mostly in outcry that a news anchor would so flagrantly suggest that Muslim thinkers are more biased and agenda-driven than other (presumably white, Christian) talking heads.
Though Green’s questions received scorn, media reaction largely avoided the more substantive questions brought up by the interview and Aslan’s new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. And that’s too bad. These are lines of inquiry worth tracing: What does Jesus stand for, and who gets to decide? Who has the authority to determine what a figure of massive religious and cultural importance really “means”?
Read more. [Image: Doug McLean]
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