Benedict Option

Son of 'Da Vinci Code'? 'Symbols' in Vatican-linked political blast cry out for translation

Son of 'Da Vinci Code'? 'Symbols' in Vatican-linked political blast cry out for translation

Actor Tom Hanks brought to life (on screen) the fictional Harvard University "symbologist" Robert Langdon, the hero of Dan Brown's fanciful novels "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons."

If there actually were a "symbologist" floating around, it might be useful to page them -- or Tom Hanks -- to help interpret a Vatican-linked bit of commentary about, of all things, American politics, the late Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and President Donald Trump's chief White House strategist Steve Bannon.

Put all THAT in your word processor, Dan Brown! Can't you almost see the trailer for that movie, releasing perhaps in time for Campaign 2020? 

Instead, we are, fortunately. in the capable hands of Rachel Zoll, religion writer for the Associated Press, and Rod "Friend of this Blog" Dreher. Each approaches the subject in a professional manner. Dreher, of course, has his opinions, which we'll get to in a moment.

Let's start with the AP, via Maine's Portland Press Herald. Take a gander at this longish excerpt, published under the headline "Pope confidant sees unholy U.S. alliance," to see what's causing all the fuss:

A close confidant of Pope Francis, writing Thursday in a Vatican-approved magazine, condemned the way some American evangelicals and their Roman Catholic supporters mix religion and politics, saying their worldview promotes division and hatred.
The Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor of the influential Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, said a shared desire for political influence between “evangelical fundamentalists” and some Catholics has inspired an “ecumenism of conflict” that demonizes opponents and promotes a “theocratic type of state.” ...

Please respect our Commenting Policy

When the Latter-day Saints dump the Boy Scouts, might there be a back story here?

When the Latter-day Saints dump the Boy Scouts, might there be a back story here?

Probably one of the more intriguing religion stories last week was that of a decision by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to partially break with the Boy Scouts of America.

The decision didn’t shock a whole lot of people, as Mormons and the Boy Scouts have been on a collision course for some time, as getreligion.org has previously noted.

Nevertheless, the former has long been a major force undergirding the national BSA and its departure is bound to have an effect.

We’ll start with the Associated Press just to get the bare details. As you read this, keep asking yourself this question: Might there be a back story in here somewhere?

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Mormon church, the biggest sponsor of Boy Scout troops in the United States, announced Thursday it is pulling as many as 185,000 older youths from the organization as part of an effort to start its own scouting-like program.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the move wasn’t triggered by the Boy Scouts’ decision in 2015 to allow gay troop leaders, since Mormon-sponsored troops have remained free to exclude such adults on religious grounds.
But at least one leading Mormon scholar said that the Boy Scouts and the church have been diverging on values in recent years and that the policy on gays was probably a contributing factor in the split.
Saying it wants a new, simplified program of its own that is more closely tailored to Mormon teenagers, the church announced that boys ages 14 to 18 will no longer participate in the Boy Scouts starting next year.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

5Q: Talking religion, news and the ties that bind with Rod Dreher, author of 'The Benedict Option'

5Q: Talking religion, news and the ties that bind with Rod Dreher, author of 'The Benedict Option'

Longtime GetReligion readers will recognize the name of Rod Dreher as that of an frequently mentioned longtime "friend of this blog."

Many will also recognize Dreher as the author of the much discussed (check out this search) book called "The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation," published last week by Sentinel. The basic thesis: orthodox Christians -- small "o" and capital "O" -- need to form tight-knit communities to preserve the values in the face of a post-modern onslaught.

The Atlantic suggests Dreher "writes with resentment." The once-upon-a-time evangelical Rachel Held Evans weighed in, via Twitter to say the book's premise "is based on fantasy."

This post isn't about that. I'll leave GetReligionistas such as tmatt to comment on the book and the surrounding media mentions. We wanted to ask this veteran reporter a few questions about religion news.

Instead, here's what Dreher had to say in response to our noted "5Q+1." However, since he passed over the "do you have anything else to say" query, it's just 5Qs:

(1) Where do you get your news about religion? 

From the Internet. I read websites like First Things, Mere Orthodoxy, Mosaic, Real Clear Religion and The Atlantic, but also mainstream news sites like The New York Times, the Washington Post and others. I find that I'm increasingly dependent on Twitter feeds from key people to pass on news to me. I'm thinking about Mollie Hemingway, Ross Douthat, Michael Brendan Dougherty, Damon Linker, Andrew T. Walker, Russell Moore and Denny Burk. But there are others.

(2) What is the most important religion story the MSM doesn't get?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Strategic SBC silence: Thinking about Donald Trump, 'The Benedict Option' and more

Strategic SBC silence: Thinking about Donald Trump, 'The Benedict Option' and more

Hello fellow religion writers.

Hello fellow religion-news junkies.

Have you spent a good part of this past week listening to the loud and potentially strategic silence in corners of cyberspace that normally buzz with Southern Baptist Convention news and commentary? Have you been paying close attention to see when a certain feed on Twitter will return to action?

Did you notice, however, the interesting thoughts and comments on a certain post by Dwight McKissic at the SBC Voices website? That would be the one with this headline:

A HILL ON WHICH [“NOT”] TO DIE:
Biographical Reflections and Ruminations on the SBC and Responses to the Graham-Moore Controversy

We are, of course, talking about the uncertainty that remains after the much-discussed meeting between the Rev. Russell Moore, the SBC's most prominent voice in Washington, D.C., and the Rev. Frank Page, leader of the convention's executive committee ("About the Washington Post report on SBC's Russell Moore: It's best to simply say, 'Read carefully' "). The two men released a "peace pipe" statement afterwards and then the silence descended over SBC land.

All of this provided the hook for this past week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in). The goal in this conversation, however, was to look at the wider themes seen in this conflict, the political and generational conflicts that are seen in many religious bodies right now, not just in America's largest Protestant flock.

With that in mind, read this passage this passage in that McKissic post, which addresses the reality that much of the SBC fighting about Moore and his work is, in reality, another sign of conflicts in American evangelicalism linked to -- and I say this carefully -- faith in Donald Trump and in his ability to keep promises. The opening reference to "Biblical Inerrancy" refers to the doctrinal fight at the heart of the great SBC civil war that began in the late 1970s.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

The Wall Street Journal explores trends in Christian community life -- sort of

The Wall Street Journal explores trends in Christian community life -- sort of

For 40 years, I’ve been following trends in the Christian community movement, whether it’s been covenant communities among Catholic charismatics or inner city households populated by socially aware Protestants. During my early 20s, I lived two years in an inner-city common-purse community made up of charismatic American Baptists, so the trend truly spans all manner of doctrines and beliefs.

Which is why I was interested in a long article in the Wall Street Journal about a traditional Catholic community of families and monks in the Ozark mountains of eastern Oklahoma.

I had heard of Clear Creek but had never visited. Fortunately, the Journal’s new religion writer did. He wrote the following:

When the first few monks arrived in Hulbert, Okla., in 1999, there wasn’t much around but tough soil, a creek and an old cabin where they slept as they began to build a Benedictine monastery in the Ozark foothills.
Dozens of families from California, Texas and Kansas have since followed, drawn by the abbey’s traditional Latin Mass—conducted as it was more than 1,000 years ago—and by the desire to live in one of the few communities in the U.S. composed almost exclusively of traditional Catholics…
The 100 or so people living here are part of a burgeoning movement among traditional Christians. Feeling besieged by secular society, they are taking refuge in communities like this one, clustered around churches and monasteries, where faith forms the backbone of daily life. Similar villages—some Roman Catholic, others Orthodox or Protestant -- have sprung up in Alaska, Maryland, New York and elsewhere, drawing hundreds of families. 
As the proportion of Americans without any religious affiliation continues to grow, more Christians are considering where they can go to live out their faith more fully. It has been dubbed the “Benedict Option,” in homage to St. Benedict, who as a young man left the moral decay of ancient Rome to live in the wilderness. In Oklahoma, residents around the monastery call their home Clear Creek. …

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Celebrate good times, come on! Enjoy these three great reads from the Godbeat

Celebrate good times, come on! Enjoy these three great reads from the Godbeat

Like most everybody in the blogging world, we're focused on producing engaging content that people will read, share and, just maybe, comment on.

That means that we often gravitate toward the hottest, most timely topics — the kind trending on social media — when deciding which stories to review.

Moreover, negative posts pointing out journalistic problems and bias in mainstream media coverage of religion news tend to generate much more interest and buzz.

Please allow me to summarize the response to most of our positive posts about stories that do everything right: zzzzzzzzz. In case you need a video illustration of that response, here goes.

But since — amazingly — you actually clicked on a post promising "great reads," I'm going to reward you with three nice stories by Godbeat pros. All published within the last week, these are the kind of excellent pieces that sometimes get lost in our GetReligion guilt files.

What's the common thread that binds all three of these stories together? For one, all of the writers are religion beat pros who've received frequent praise from GetReligion: Jaweed Kaleem of the Los Angeles Times, Peter Smith of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and our former GetReligion colleague Sarah Pulliam Bailey of the Washington Post.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Anarchists, Christians and community: The Atlantic tries to make sense of it all

Anarchists, Christians and community: The Atlantic tries to make sense of it all

There’s been a lot of creative how-is-the-world-reacting-to-Donald-Trump articles out there, including one on how people are fleeing the deluge, as it were, by living in rural off-the-grid communities. The Atlantic took a trip to several such places in rural Virginia and profiled people who were gravitating toward downward mobility.

I lived in an urban Christian community in the early 1980s and wrote a book about the community movement some 25 years later, so naturally I was intrigued to see who’s setting up household these days and inviting in guests. Community living is not for the faint of heart, believe me.

So, here’s how the piece starts:

For the last eight years, Nicolas and Rachel Sarah have been slowly weaning themselves off fossil fuels. They don’t own a refrigerator or a car; their year-old baby and four-year-old toddler play by candlelight rather than electricity at night. They identify as Christian anarchists, and have given an official name to their search for an alternative to consumption-heavy American life: the Downstream Project, with the motto to “do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.”
As it turns out, exiting the system is a challenging, time-consuming, and surprisingly technical process. Here in the Shenandoahs and central Virginia, a handful of tiny communities are experimenting with what it means to reject the norms of contemporary life and exist in a radically different way. They seem to share Americans’ pervasive sense of political alienation, which arguably reached an apotheosis with the election of Donald Trump: a sense of division from their peers, a distrust of government…

That interested me right off the bat in that I’d profiled the PAPA Festival, a gathering of Christian anarchists, for the Washington Post back in 2011. I hadn’t known that millennials were seeking to live in community, but I sure discovered some folks at the festival who were quietly reinventing the trend. I wish the writer had unpacked what Christian anarchism stands for, as it’s a complex concept. What are they resisting? Government? Civilization? Are they involved in civil disobedience?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Flashback 2015: Revealing Top 10 lists from Religion Dispatches and Patheos Evangelical

Flashback 2015: Revealing Top 10 lists from Religion Dispatches and Patheos Evangelical

So far, your GetReligionistas have shared quite a few Top 10 story lists marking the end of the year -- like here, here, here and here, with an attached podcast here. These have ranged from the Religion Newswriters Association list to that of the Associated Press. I found it interesting (commentary here) that the top AP story -- period, as in the top story in the whole world -- was a religion news story, but that wasn't the top story in the RNA poll. Go figure.

Obviously, I find these lists fascinating, in part because they show us (a) just how complex the world of religion news really is and (b) the unique points of view (which can, in some cases become biases) that affect how scribes and editors see the world of religion news. There is much to learn in these lists, both for news professionals and news consumers.

In the next couple of days I will be posting a number of additional lists covering religion news in 2015, from a variety of different points of view.

Please let me know if I missed one or two that you would like to see posted.

Let's start with the Religion Dispatches list of the "Ten Religion Stores That Went (Mostly) Missing in 2015." The whole idea here, of course, is that these are stories that, from the point of view of Peter Laarman, SHOULD have received more coverage in the past year.

Read them all. But here are a few that caught my eye:

2. The struggle of the Black Church to come to terms with #BlackLivesMatter.
In some cities there has been visible conflict between Old Guard pastors (many of whom still identify with the 20th century civil rights movement) and the New Guard of fearless youth, many of whom are not shy about showing contempt for the pastors.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

NPR offers listeners shallow mishmash about Christian universities and same-sex marriage

NPR offers listeners shallow mishmash about Christian universities and same-sex marriage

It’s been more than three weeks since the historic Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide and it appears that  NPR has finally gotten around to asking how Christian colleges are going to react to this.

Other media were asking this question even before the June 26 ruling, so it’s well-trodden ground. It's a rich mother lode of article possibilities, as religious colleges are the low-hanging fruit in the Supreme Court decision. They are not churches, so they don't come under certain protections that houses of worship would have.

So with plenty of time to prepare a decent story, NPR could have come out with a well-thought-out look at the issue, much like this recent story in the Atlantic Monthly. Instead, the show produced four and one-half minutes that didn’t even manage to stay on topic. Here’s how their broadcast started:

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: Some of the uproar over the Supreme Court's marriage ruling is misplaced. Ministers will not be forced to marry same-sex couples, and churches will not be forced to accommodate same-sex weddings. But what about schools? Union University in Tennessee prohibits sexual activities that fall outside a marriage covenant between a man and a woman. That applies to staff as well as students, and Samuel Oliver, Union's president says it dictates, for example, which employees qualify for marriage benefits.
SAMUEL OLIVER: We don't offer benefits to same-sex partners because having that same-sex partner would be a violation of our behavioral code.

Please respect our Commenting Policy