Sunday, May 24, 2015

Scanning religious news on Sunday morning

Jim Gaffigan (like Stephen Colbert) is a committed Catholic.  But he also understands how problematic it can be to be identified as a believer in anything remotely religious.  At least, according to his new sitcom, which, interestingly, gets a very fair treatment in ThinkProgress.

The best part of the article, though, is this:

Conversely, liberals sometimes hide their faith when navigating the progressive cultural spaces they call home, wary of triggering the fury of those who are wounded by or critical of religion. (For a sneak peak, check out the anti-religion comments that will inevitably populate the bottom of this post.)
Without a trace of irony, the comments to the article furiously attack religion in all it's imagined forms, and tell it to go away and stop bothering them.   As the article points out:

And while liberal people of faith are increasingly proud of their religion, polls show they do so only with the caveat of not wanting to impose it on anyone else.
Most of the comments are about how imposing their faith on others is all that "religious" people want to do.

Honestly, "religion" is like a dog-whistle on the internet:  the very word provokes Pavlovian responses completely unconnected to the topic of the article.  As Ana Marie Cox said:  "Why do I need to prove my faith--and why should I try?"  Funny, too, because her attitude is not all that different from what one might expect to hear from Kathleen Norris:

It does come up: Since leaving Washington, I have made my life over and I am happier, freer, and healthier in body and spirit and apparently it shows. When people ask me, “What changed?” or, “How did you do it?” or, sometimes, with nervous humor, “Tell me your secret!” I have a litany of concrete lifestyle changes I can give them—simply leaving Washington is near the top of the list—but the honest answer would be this: I try, every day, to give my will and my life over to God. I try to be like Christ. I get down on my knees and pray. 
Meanwhile Pope Francis is talking like what the Jesuits call a "free person":

Francis asked the bishops to reinforce the "indispensable role" of ordinary folk in their dioceses. "In reality, lay people who have an authentic Christian formation shouldn't need a bishop-pilot, or a monsignor-pilot, or clerical input to assume their responsibilities at every level, from political to social, economic to legislative," he said.

"Rather, what they all need is a Bishop Pastor!"

He complained that often official church documents are too heavy on doctrine and theory "as if our orientation isn't aimed at our people and country but rather students and specialists."
A comment at Salon attributed the decline of Christianity to the Internet, which provides more information about 'reality' and the falseness of religion than ever before.  The internet provides us more information, it's true.  But what is true and what is false requires must as much discernment as ever.

And as for that scary news that denominations are in decline?  You could do worse than reconsider that is more important:  your denomination, or God.  There are two ways to put this (or six, if you prefer a list).   You can pray the prayer of Church Anniversary of the old E&R Hymnal:

Grant that thy Church may be delivered from traditions which have lost their life, from usage which has lost its spirit, from institutions which no longer give life and power to their generation; that the Church may ever shine as a light in the world and be as a city set on a hill.

Or you can boil that list of six down to the essential:  Things don't matter.  Ideas don't matter.  People matter.

And lastly, it's Pentecost; have some art.

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