The irony, though, is that even as the country becomes more secular, American politics are likely to remain shot through with aggressive piety. What we’re seeing is not a northern European-style mellowing, but an increasing polarisation. In his recent book Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment, the sociologist Phil Zuckerman described the secularised countries of Scandinavia as places where religion is regarded with “benign indifference”. There’s consensus instead of culture war. That’s not what’s happening in the United States. Instead, the centre is falling out.
According to the American Religious Identification Survey, Christianity is losing ground in the United States, but evangelical Christianity is not. Just over a third of Americans are still born-again. Meanwhile, the mainline churches, beacons of progressive, rationalistic faith – the kind that could potentially act as a bridge between religious and non-religious Americans – are shrinking. “These trends … suggest a movement towards more conservative beliefs and particularly to a more ‘evangelical’ outlook among Christians,” write the report’s authors.
Peace is not at hand.
It still isn’t there. Religious musings apparently activate the same kinds of brain structures as do more mundane preoccupations, say scientists in in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Other primates may not, however, have the brain functionality required to support a cohesive notion of religion. Something our early ancestors also had.
All of which (surprise) still leaves us with a lot to examine.
Brazil’s Catholic bishops conference denied that the archbishop of Recife and Olinda, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, excommunicated the mother and doctors who practiced a legal abortion on a nine-year-old girl that was pregnant with twins after being raped by her stepfather. . . . The secretary general of the bishops conference, Dimas Lara Barbosa, said that the prelate “at no time excommunicated anyone.”
Too cunning an attempt at damage-control.
Sunday, Archbishop Rino Fisichella in the Vatican newspaper that the public declaration of the already automatic excommunications associated with the abortion were “hasty” and the nine-year-old girl, whose life was saved by the abortion of twins she was physically unequipped to have, “should have been above all defended, embraced, treated with sweetness to make her feel that we were all on her side, all of us, without distinction.”
Since that didn’t happen, the matter “has impacted the credibility of our teaching, which appears in the eyes of many as insensitive, incomprehensible and devoid of mercy.”
Truly. Continuously, for many of us, we suspect.
Update: Excommunicated doctor hailed as hero
Brazilian Minister of Health Jose Gomes Temporao called on the audience at a national convention on women’s health in Brasilia to acknowledge the “brilliant” work done by a medical team in the abortion, performed in Brazil’s northeastern city of Recife.
Those in attendance responded with a standing ovation, according to the newspaper O Povo.
But the president, Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, condemned the excommunication and praised the doctors for their decision to perform the abortion on the girl, who was 15 weeks pregnant. “
According to the Telegraph, Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva a Christian and a Catholic said, “I deeply regret that a bishop has had such conservative behaviour. In this case, medicine is more right than the Church.”
Dr. Olimpio Moraes, one of the doctors involved in the procedure, said he thanked the archbishop for his excommunication because the controversy sheds light on Brazil’s restrictive abortion laws. He said women in Brazil’s countryside are victimized by Brazil’s ban on abortion.
Conditions for women in Brazil are often brutal.
IPAS, a non-governmental organization that works with the Brazilian health ministry, found in a recent study that more than 1 million women undergo illegal abortions in Brazil each year. About 250,000 women are treated by doctors for botched abortions.
In addition, studies at the Brazilian hospital Perola Byington in Sao Paulo, which is dedicated to treating female victims of violence, indicate that more than 40 percent of its cases involved children.
He had it screened by Fr. Len Plazewski, director of vocations for the Diocese of St. Petersburg.
What does the priest think of NBC’s alternate-history scifi retelling of the Old Testament story of David and Goliath?
“It’s very faithful to the story without being slavishly tied to it,” the priest said of Kings, which features former Deadwood star Ian McShane as King Silas Benjamin and newcomer Chris Egan as David Shepherd. “They’ve put it into this context which anyone can relate to – whether they know the story as well as I do, or if they only know David and Goliath.”
Tony Cartledge is unenchanted.
You can watch the two-hour, opening episode on Hulu.
Baptist women have played a prophetic role since the movement’s dawn, four centuries ago, said Curtis Freeman, director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School in a Vivian B. Harrison Memorial Lecture at Mount Olive College last week.
That role is for modern Baptist women a matter of controversy, especially in the Southern Baptist Convention. But Freeman reminds us that “the church doesn’t really call people into ministry. We help people discern God’s call on their life.”
As a result, “Asking whether women should be ordained to the ministry is the wrong question, says Freeman. The question is, ‘Who is being gifted in the church?’” And historically, the Baptist answer to that question has not been uniformly gender specific.
Steve DeVane wrote that according to Freeman there were nine Baptists among the roughly 300 “prophetesses” in England between 1640 and 1660. They were objects of controversy at the time and recorded in the writings of “the English Presbyterian controversialist, Thomas Edwards” in 1646.
Reasonable estimates indicate that between 1640 and 1660 as many as three hundred women prophetesses were active in England. A checklist of women’s published writings during this period suggests that more than half of these women’s writings could be described as “prophetic.” Most of them published nothing, but many of the forty-seven well-known women visionaries during the revolutionary period did write. Nine of these writing prophetesses were Baptists. . . . these women told their stories in their own words . . . .
Freeman focused on the life and ministries of four women who wrote:
. . . all of whom were associated with the Particular (or Calvinistical) Baptists: Sarah Wight (1632-?), Anna Trapnel (1642-1660), Katherine Sutton (1630-1663), and Anne Wentworth (1629/30-1693?). By my count, the combined total of the writings of these four women was no less than 748 pages, which is no small record. And because many of these writings were published as cheap pamphlets, and thus available to even the poorest laborers, they were able to reach a wide audience and often went through multiple editions.
Freeman in his presentation addresses the question of “whether this survey of prophetic women suggests anything more than the fact that it took early Baptists a few years” to establish “a male ministerial monopoly.” There is, he says, history to the contrary, “even in the Old South:”
The Haw River Baptist Church, for example, founded in 1758 near the town of Bynum in Chatham County, was one of the mother churches among Baptists in the North Carolina Piedmont. The church’s pastor, Elnathan Davis, who served for over thirty years, was converted and baptized by the Separate Baptist patriarch, Elder Shubal Stearns. When Morgan Edwards, the noted colonial-era Baptist preacher, traveled through the South in the 1770s, he observed that the Haw River Church permitted “ruling elders, elderesses, and deaconesses.”
They may have exercised “their office only among their own sex,” but there were women among the Separate Baptists in Virginia who “crossed over and exercised their gifts among the brethren.”
One of them, Margaret Meuse Clay of Chesterfield County, was convicted of unlicensed preaching and escaped public whipping only because her fine was paid” by a stranger. She and her sisters apparently remained unaltered in their conviction that “the right to pray and preach was based, not on ordination credentials, but on charismatic endowment. They exercised their gifts whenever the Spirit moved and among whomever they were so led without asking permission from any man.” He further writes:
These women surely were convinced that Jesus was addressing them directly just as he spoken to the primitive Christian community, and they certainly believed that they were women of whom the Lord had promised, “I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:18). The possibility that the Baptist vision might be enhanced by the standpoint of these prophetic women suggests that it might be important to ask how we might be prepared to look at history, and indeed the future, differently through their lives.
Finally, Freeman offers the modern example of Addie Davis, who was ordained by Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, N.C. on Aug. 9, 1964, to suggest that:
Ultimately it is not a matter of gender or ordination, but of spiritual discernment. For such radical democracy to work perhaps we might begin by looking again to the horizon of the new creation with our sisters in the Spirit who may help us once again to see it afresh.