Crisis magazine

In Washington state, humans can be turned into compost (Catholics have a problem with that)

In Washington state, humans can be turned into compost (Catholics have a problem with that)

It’s never boring living in Washington state, the land of legalized marijuana, orcas, lots of rain, a quasi-socialist city government and now the chance to become at one with the soil — extra quick.

Literally. We’re the first state to legalize human composting.

It’s not quite “Soylent Green” (the 1973 dystopian movie where dead people are made into food for a starving world), but it feels like a step in that direction. Some are calling it the chance to have “a better, greener death.”

This slogan goes better with some religions than others. The Christian flocks with ancient roots have lots of problems with this,

Let’s start with how the Seattle Times reported on it:

On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed SB 5001, “concerning human remains,”making Washington the first state in the U.S. to legalize human composting.

The law, which takes effect May 1, 2020, recognizes “natural organic reduction” and alkaline hydrolysis (sometimes called “liquid cremation”) as acceptable means of disposition for human bodies. Until now, Washington code had permitted only burial and cremation.

It’s part of a project called “Recompose,” also known as the Urban Death Project before being renamed, for obvious reasons.

The Recompose model is more like an urban crematorium (bodies go in, remains come out), but using the slower, less carbon-intensive means of “organic reduction,” or composting.

The process, which involves using wood chips, straw and other materials, takes about four weeks and is related to methods of “livestock composting” that ranchers and farmers have been using for several years. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, a soil scientist at Washington State University, says that practice can turn a 1,500-pound steer — bones and all — into clean, odorless soil in a matter of months.

So that’s what farmers do with all those dead cows and horses. Do you get to tell your family where “you” get to be planted once you’ve turned into dirt? With the tomatoes out back? In the front flower bed?

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Canadian law school case before Supreme Court tests press impartiality -- again

Canadian law school case before Supreme Court tests press impartiality -- again

Far from the maddening crowd of Donald Trump in Asia and Roy Moore in Alabama is a legal battle in Canada involving a private Christian law school that can’t get accredited because the institution affirms two millennia of Christian doctrine forbidding sex outside of marriage.

The matter is so contentious that its case will be heard Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 before the Canadian Supreme Court. Of course, here at GetReligion we are primarily interested in noting whether mainstream journalists are covering both sides of this debate with anything approaching fairness and accuracy.

I’ll have to hopscotch between news accounts to explain the whole thing. The Toronto Globe and Mail describes Trinity Western University thus

The private university, established in 1962, has a "Community Covenant" obliging students to sign a promise not to engage in sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. Law societies in both provinces voted against licensing the graduates, calling the school discriminatory. B.C.'s Court of Appeal overturned one such rejection, while Ontario's top court upheld the other.

Several paragraphs down, you get this:

Two same-sex advocacy groups, Start Proud and OUTlaws, say in a joint filing that the Community Covenant means LGBTQ persons, including married ones, "can never be their authentic selves while attending TWU. … No one should be forced to renounce their dignity and self-respect in order to obtain an education."

This case is a bit of a headspinner for Americans used to the likes of schools such as Brigham Young University and Liberty University, both of which are private schools that have doctrinal covenants forbidding students to sleep around. These –- and many other universities’ –- prohibition against same-sex relationships have caused some to charge them with violating Title IX (which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender stereotypes).

Although many American religious institutions have been granted exemption from Title IX since 2014, that hasn't stopped gay activists from trying to keep BYU out of the Big 12 (football) Conference because of its standards on extramarital sex. My colleague Bobby Ross has written on this

Canada apparently has no similar protections for faith-based schools, leaving them wide open to lawsuits.

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Yes, colleges are going crazy: But there may be newsy debates at those God schools, too

Yes, colleges are going crazy: But there may be newsy debates at those God schools, too

Hello reporters and editors. Let's talk for a moment about stories linked to higher education.

Students and parents who are part of traditional religious traditions -- especially Catholics -- hang on. I'll be back to you shortly.

So, journalists, are there any colleges or universities near you? Are there any interesting stories at the moment out there in higher education circles? I mean, other than the state-school chaos at places like Evergreen College and the progressive private-school world of Middlebury College.

Obviously, there are all kinds of First Amendment issues hitting the fan.

But, journalists, stop and think for a moment. Are there any RELIGIOUS colleges and universities near your newsrooms? In my experience (oh, 25 years or so teaching in Christian higher education), when things start going crazy on campuses from coast to coast, many students and their parents -- especially religious folks -- start considering alternatives.

But are there any interesting stories to write about on those campuses, events that are rippling out from the wilder world of secular higher education? Yes, think Wheaton College. Yes, think Gordon College. Or think about the whirlwind of events, this past year, that surrounded the famous literature professor Anthony Esolen at Providence College.

This brings us to this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in), which grew out of an "On Religion" interview I did with Esolen about his departure (after 27 years and a tenure nod) from Providence after students accused him of every progressive academic sin in the book. Click here for an essay offering Esolen's take on what happened: "Why I Left Providence College for Thomas More." Here is my short summary, drawn from the column:

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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. …

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