I like to keep up on news of faith, spirituality and religion in the mainstream and alternative reality. Here’s a selection of articles I’ve saved from the month of January.
First, two religious leaders passed this month. I had never of either of these men prior to their deaths, but reading about them now I wish I had.
Abbé Pierre, French priest and advocate for the homeless died at the age of 94. John Allen, Jr. writes in memory of Abbé Pierre.
zAbbé Pierre represents one of the towering examples in the 20th century of faith in action, an icon of what Pope Paul VI meant when he said that in this age, the church will be an effective teacher only to the extent that it is first a witness to the love of Christ.
The fact that Catholicism is still capable of generating such witnesses, despite all its struggles and internal fractures, is a heartening bit of context, one which ought to be factored more routinely into reflections about what’s happening in “the church.”
The other loss was Jesuit Father Bob Drinan, famed for serving a decade in the US Congress in the 1970’s. It’s a big gap in my education that I never knew a Catholic priest had served in the House of Representatives nor did I know that it’s now prohibited.
Anti-death penalty advocate Sr. Helen Prejean spoke out on two current events in January. First in a commentary on the God’s Politics blog she takes on the indignity of Sadaam Hussein’s execution.
Here’s the cake: rendering Hussein or any human being defenseless and killing him. Imposing a violent death on a person is the greatest indignity of all; it makes name-calling or taunts pale in significance.
Can a state killing ever be done with dignity?
Prejean also spoke out against Federal housing plans in post-Katrina New Orleans that are harmful tot he poor.
“In my mind, to know those homes are sitting there in decent shape when so many need housing is a sin,” Prejean said in papers filed on behalf of residents seeking to stop the demolitions.
“I have been particularly concerned about how many of the less-advantaged residents have yet to be able to return,” she said in the court papers.
Here in Massachusetts, there is the story of Robin McCarthy who is entering an order of religious sisters in Lowell after five other communities rejected her due to her disabilities. My own church community is discussing accesibility and attitudes toward people with disabilities right now so this strikes close to home.
As for bias, she considers the church more enlightened than its surrounding environment. “In general, I don’t think society looks at disability and sees something beautiful, where in the church, they do see that. . . . The soul of that person is every bit as beautiful in the eyes of God as the soul of the greatest genius.
I haven’t read scientist Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion but I found this interesting rebutal from Alister McGrath on AlterNet. The discussion below the article is also interesting, although I haven’t read all of that yet either.
Finally, two longer articles worth reading:
Speaking in Many Tongues: Why the Church Must Be More Catholic by Peter C. Phan in Commonweal stresses the importance of a plurality of cultural expressions of Christian faith.
Through a Glass, Darkly: How the Christian right is reimagining U.S. history by Jeff Sharlet in Harper’s Magazine tells of an eerie effort among some Christian evangelicals to creae a Christian past that never existed.