Religion News Roundup, Monday: Lady Gaga, Jedi Knights, and Occupy Wallstreet

    Religion News

  • Pagan wins ‘family life’ human rights case: An American woman who worships Norse gods has won the right to stay in Britain because of her “family life” with her boyfriend and his wife. Home Office officials told Emily DiSanto, 25, that they would not grant her permission to stay in Britain because the law bans what are in effect polygamous relationships. But now she has won an extraordinary legal case in which she was allowed to remain here on the basis of her human right to family life. The 25-year-old now shares Alan and Anne-Marie Caulfield’s marital home in south-east London with his two children – one by each of the women. The tree are Odinist. Odinism is another name for Asatru.
  • Canada’s Feds committed to tackling polygamy: Canada is hoping to crack down on polygamous relationships such as the one involved in the sensational Shafia honour killing trial, according to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney who will unveil a revised guide for newcomers early next year that will address the issue.
  • China party official warns members over religion: Religious practice among Chinese Communist Party members is increasing and threatens its unity and national leadership, a top party official said in remarks reported Monday. Party members are required to be atheists and must not believe in religion or engage in religious practice, said Zhu Weiqun, a member of the party’s Central Committee and executive vice director of its United Front Work Department in charge of dealings with nonparty groups.
  • Religious Jews still try to segregate Israel buses: Israel’s political leaders and chief rabbis on Sunday condemned persistent efforts by ultra-Orthodox Jewish men to shunt Israeli women to the back of public buses, a year after the country’s Supreme Court outlawed the practice.
  • Pope urges dignity in emotional visit to prison: Pope Benedict XVI made an emotional visit Sunday to Rome’s main prison, meeting with detainees, denouncing prison overcrowding and calling for greater dignity for inmates everywhere. “Inmates are human beings who, despite their crimes, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity,” the pope said. “They need our concern.”
  • Jedi knights top 15,000 in Czech census: AFP: More than 15,000 Czechs follow the faith of the Star Wars movies’ Jedi knights, official census data showed Thursday, while half of the country’s 10.5 million people declined to list any religion. “Many people adhered to the moral values of Jedi knights from the Star Wars saga,” the Czech Statistical Office said in a statement, noting that the invented faith also had a strong following in countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Britain.
  • Czech Republic Sees Rise of ‘Jedi Knights’ as Religious Movement: The rise of the Jedi religion, whether serious or not, shows a strong turn away from organized religion. Nearly 1.1 million people declared themselves Roman Catholic on this census, making it the country’s most popular religion. But that’s a sharp decline from the 2001 numbers, where 2.8 million listed themselves as Roman Catholic, Radio Prague notes.
  • Malaysia Islamic TV show crowns best woman preacher: A Malaysian Muslim woman was crowned the best preacher in a televised Islamic reality TV show that aims to change conservative mindsets on the role of women in Muslim societies, passing tests on lecturing as well as renovating mosques. The 13-episode prime time program titled “Solehah,” an Arabic word meaning “pious female,” judged young Muslim women on their religious knowledge, oratory skills and personality. The show followed on the heels of the hit Islamic-themed show “Imam Muda,” or Young Imam, which has taken place on a rival TV station to seek the best Imam, or male Muslim leader.
  • Religious leaders’ concern at library Scientology stock: Church leaders in Tonbridge (UK) have questioned why almost a quarter of the library’s religious section is dedicated to books on Scientology. A spokesman at the Scientology headquarters in East Grinstead, Graeme Wilson, said the books were donated to the library. Spamming libraries with the quackery amd pseudo-religious fantasies taught by the cult’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard is standard practice for the commercial enterprise.
    Dutch bishops say sorry for sexual abuse

  • On Sunday, priests in many Dutch Roman Catholic churches read out a letter written by bishops in response to a scathing report on child sex abuse at Catholic institutions. The report, issued on Friday, concluded that child sex abuse by Dutch Roman Catholic priests had been far more extensive than previously thought and that the Church authorities knew it was taking place but failed to act appropriately and provide care for the victims:
    Analysis, Commentary, Opinion

  • Why young evangelicals are leaving church: Young adult Evangelicals are abandoning church in significant numbers. David Kinnaman, the 38-year-old president of the Barna Group, an evangelical research firm, is the latest to sound the alarm. In his new book, “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith,” [Kindle] he says that 18- to 29-year-olds have fallen down a “black hole” of church attendance. There is a 43% drop in Christian church attendance between the teen and early adult years, he says. Journalist Laura Sessions Stepp says she’s not surprised, and opines: These young dropouts value the sense of community their churches provide but are tired of being told how they should live their lives. They don’t appreciate being condemned for living with a partner, straight or gay, outside of marriage or opting for abortion to terminate an unplanned pregnancy.
  • Why the Church Should Listen to Lady Gaga: The most popular, not most prolific or even the most accurate, theologian in the world right now is Lady Gaga. She talks about Jesus… a lot, interpreting Him for her staunch fans. She has covered sin, God’s creation, Jesus, internal spiritual struggles, etc. in her music. Lady Gaga openly claims to love Jesus and be a Christian. It’s a conversation that the Church needs to take notice of. What she gets right the Church needs to claim, and what she gets wrong the Church needs to critique.
  • How Christians Ought to “Occupy” Wall Street (and All Streets): There are Christians who already occupy Wall Street every day in their occupations as businessmen and women, bankers and investors, traders and executives, secretaries and receptionists, janitors and security guards. The church’s responsibility to these “occupiers” is to provide them with the moral and spiritual formation necessary to be faithful followers of Christ every day in their productive service to others.
    Also Noted

  • New York Hasidic Women Want Separate EMT Unit: If you live in New York City, you will often see the Orthodox Jewish ambulance service known as Hatzolah on the street. Hatzolah has some 1,200 volunteers — all men — in New York City and is known for its quick response time. Now, a group of Hasidic female EMTs wants to create a women’s division within Hatzolah, to help deliver babies in emergencies. Deeply religious Hasidic men and women do not touch each other, unless they are immediate family. They don’t shake hands. They don’t sit next to each other on buses or at weddings. But when it comes to emergency births, the babies are often are delivered by male volunteers with Hatzolah.
  • Russian Orthodox Church Asserts Role in Civil Society: Just over 20 years ago, any religious education outside church walls was still banned in the Soviet Union. Today, churches are being built on state university campuses, theology departments have opened around Russia, and the Russian Orthodox Church has built its own educational network with international contacts and even become something of a model for the secular system. While state universities struggle on many levels to integrate into the international system, the Russian Orthodox Church — which started building its education system virtually from scratch in the post-Soviet era — has applied international standards from the outset.

Today in History

President Bill Clinton impeached; General George Washington opens camp at Valley Forge; Charles Dickens’ novel “A Christmas Carol” is first published; Apollo 17 splashes down in the Pacific Ocean; ‘The Music Man’ opens on Broadway.


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This post was last updated: Aug. 27, 2013