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Is Religious Freedom Threatened?

TPC_ReligiousFreedom_bio[1]The disputes seem to pile up on top of each other. Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor, Arizona’s SB1062, Colorado’s cake baker, New Mexico’s photographer and hair dresser, numerous Catholic dioceses and Christian universities — all clamoring for the defense of their fundamental rights. But the rights conflict. Rights to practice faith in the public arena versus rights to health care versus rights to freedom from discrimination — which will prevail and which will retreat when they come into conflict? While the principle of religious freedom is inscribed in the Constitution and forms a core idea of American democracy, it has also become an increasingly embattled issue amid broader cultural tensions over individual rights, the power of government, and the separation of church and state. [Read more]

Is Dennett Rethinking Free Will?

Reader Jiten called my attention to this post by Gregg Caruso on Flickers of Freedom about Dan Dennett’s comment on Free Will—a comment that appeared in a discussion in the journal Methode. I admit that I haven’t yet read Dan’s whole piece, but Caruso gives an interesting excerpt, which suggests that Dennett may be rethinking the issue of free will. [Read more]

Byzantine Monastery Unearthed In Israel Has Spectacular Mosaics

n-BYZANTINE-CHURCH-large570[1]The remains of a 1,500-year-old monastery with intact mosaics covering the floor have been unearthed in southern Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday (April 1). The Byzantine complex — which was discovered near Hura, a Bedouin village in the northern Negev Desert — measures 65 feet by 115 feet (20 by 35 meters). It is arranged on an east-west axis, a common feature in Byzantine churches, and a prayer hall and dining room are decorated with elaborate mosaics that show geometric patterns, leaves, flowers, baskets, jars and birds. [Read more]

Again, Vatican Punishes Gender Equality More Swiftly Than Sexual Abuse

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has removed Father Jerry Zawada, a well known Franciscan peace activist, from public life as a priest for celebrating mass with a woman. The 76-year-old Zawada has been ordered to a “life of prayer and penance” within the Wisconsin friary of his order for saying mass with Janice Sevre-Duszynska in 2011. [Read more]

Why It Would Have Been Invidious to Put the Mormon Church on Trial

350x[1]Last week we reported a decision by a judge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court not to hear a case of alleged fraud against the Mormon Church because he considered that Tom Phillips, the man bringing it, was trying to manipulate the court. He was also strongly of the opinion that a secular court should never rule on theological matters. Mr Phillips claimed that as a former member of the Mormon Church he had been defrauded of his money because the Church had peddled lies to him in the form of its doctrines (such as, there were no deaths on earth prior to 6,000 year ago, that the whole human race descended from two people who lived 6,000 years ago, etc,. etc). [Read more]

I’ll Be at the Ordain Women ‘Event’, But…

Screen-Shot-2014-04-01-at-10.20.56-am-300x222[1]I’m going to the Ordain Women action on April 5th. I support it. Anytime a group of people get together to lobby for change for women it’s worth paying attention. Historical public action to highlight the lack of equality for women has earned some women the right to vote, it has earned women reproductive rights, the right to own property, the right to employment and pay parity. It has challenged the cult of domesticity, the sexual objectification of women, the normalization of patriarchy, it has drawn attention to the plight of domestic violence, and has more recently sought to challenge sexist culture. Actions that I support. [Read more]

Beck: ‘Noah’ Movie is ‘Dangerous Disinformation’

Glenn Beck loves watching movies but he will not be seeing Darren Aronofsky’s forthcoming “Noah” movie because it is “dangerous disinformation” created in order to undermine the “true” Biblical story of Noah and the Ark.

[Read more]

How Evangelicals Won a Culture War and Lost a Generation

120510013550-generic-cross-on-church-steeple-story-top[1]On March 24, World Vision announced that the U.S. branch of the popular humanitarian organization would no longer discriminate against employees in same-sex marriages. It was a decision that surprised many but one that made sense, given the organization’s ecumenical nature. But on March 26, World Vision President Richard Stearns reversed the decision, stating, “our board acknowledged that the policy change we made was a mistake.” Supporters helped the aid group “see that with more clarity,” Stearns added, “and we’re asking you to forgive us for that mistake.” [Read more]

Noah‘s All-White Ark, and Other Odd Directorial Choices

aronofsky_302[1]In Noah Darren Aronofsky has crafted a provocative cinematic midrash weaving the stories of Genesis and stories from the book(s) of Enoch set in an antediluvian Iron Age. Midrashic commentary traditionally fills spaces in scriptural stories, asking questions of the text, and answering those questions.  Aronofsky’s choices create a new interpretation of the story of Noah—neither a good nor a bad thing in itself. Some will care that the movie deviates from the biblical narrative. [Read more]

Fundamentalist Islam is More Rational than Moderate Islam

Last night I disagreed with Ed Brayton about what atheists are not supposed to say and I also mentioned Dan Fincke’s article about not letting fundamentalists define religion. I want to make something real clear: when it comes to Islam, fundamentalism makes much more sense and it’s much more rational than moderate Islam. Now, I wanted to write a long post about why moderate Islam is an inherently failed project, but I guess I will just say this: moderate Islam makes exactly no amount of sense. Zero. [Read more]

What Do the Bullies for Christ hope to Gain?

The bullies had to prove that they could control World Vision, because controlling World Vision helps them pretend that they can control the Bible. It’s just like why the same bullies are compelled to control women. Controlling women is another way of pretending that they can control the Bible. [Read more]

Secular Courts Should Not Rule on the Truth or Otherwise of Religious Teachings: Judge

350x[1]A British judge has said that it is never right for a secular court to rule on the truth or otherwise of religious claims. His comments come after Tom Phillips, a former follower of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), tried to prosecute the leader of the LDS, Thomas Monson, for breaching the Fraud Act. Mr Phillips said that Mr Monson was seeking money by using “untrue or misleading” statements. But Senior District Judge Howard Riddle put a stop to the case before it even started; saying at Westminster Magistrates’ Court that Mr Phillips was trying to manipulate the court and was seeking a high profile platform to attack the church and its teachings. [Read more]

US Air Force Airbrushes Religious Liberty Again

4b9b0e8f-409c-4817-9759-1634034cad42[1]Fox News reported a few weeks ago about how the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., removed a Bible verse from a cadet’s personal whiteboard. I am personally so disappointed that the branch of service that I served in to protect our freedoms is now trying to suppress them. When one walks the dorm halls of the Air Force Academy, one immediately notices the hundreds of whiteboards hanging on students’ doors. This past week, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., cited Air Force officials who explained that cadets “often use these boards to display items, quotes or other things that reflect their personality or from which they draw inspiration.” [Read more]

Born Again! A Former Pastor, One Year On

people-in-church[1]I struggle these days when people ask for my bio. I’m a former pastor, former professor. It’s all about what I used to do. When I say I’m a blogger, this sounds, well…like something someone who lives in LA would say. (“Dude, I’m a writer.”) But for now, this is what I do and I love it, but still, the most poignant and perhaps relevant part of my bio is that I am a former pastor. This past Sunday marked one year since I resigned my position at the Hollywood Adventist Church at the insistence of the Southern California Conference—my employer. There are plenty of stories out there about the circumstances surrounding my resignation (here and here, for starters). The issues that led to my resignation now seem like ancient history. [Read more]

Comedians on God’s Family Issues