Jews

Intermarriage on the rise: How does Catholicism view Catholic-Jewish weddings?

Intermarriage on the rise: How does Catholicism view Catholic-Jewish weddings?

ELEANOR’S QUESTION:

Is it sinful for Catholics to attend a wedding between a Catholic and a Jew, performed by a rabbi?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

No.

But there’s much more to be said about how Catholicism views interfaith marriages. (The church is more open on this than those who adhere to Jewish tradition, as we’ll discuss below.)

An official U.S. Catholic website says that until recent decades “the idea of a Catholic marrying outside the faith was practically unheard of, if not taboo,” and such ceremonies never occurred publicly in a church sanctuary. Yet today, in some parts of the U.S. up to 40 percent of Catholics are in “ecumenical marriages” between Christians of differing affiliations, or “interfaith marriages” with non-Christians.

The site says “because of the challenges that arise, . . . the church doesn’t encourage” interfaith marriage but does seek to support such couples and “help them to meet those challenges with a spirit of holiness.” Under the law code that covers all Catholics worldwide, says a Canon Law Society of America commentary, there’ve been “extensive changes” in the direction of leniency in marriage rules since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and mixed marriages have become “more commonplace and socially acceptable.”

In Catholic belief, a marriage between a Catholic and a Jew (or someone from another non-Christian religion) is not a “sacrament.” Importantly, this doesn’t mean the church questions that the couple is truly married as a civil matter, nor does it express any disrespect toward Judaism, with which Christianity has such great affinity.

The technical term used in marriages with non-Christians is “the impediment of disparity of cult.” If an interfaith couple wishes a wedding in a Catholic church, canon law prescribes that the local bishop must issue a “dispensation” on the basis of “just and reasonable cause,” which occurs far more routinely than in past times.


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Top notch New York Times who-done-it story comes up short on Hindu roots of India's caste system

Top notch New York Times who-done-it story comes up short on Hindu roots of India's caste system

The New York Times ran a fascinating story out of rural India over the weekend that to my mind underscored -- with one big caveat -- some of the complicated mechanics and very best qualities of foreign reporting.

Headlined, “How to Get Away With Murder in Small-Town India,” the piece, written in the first person by a veteran correspondent, showed — without explicitly explaining — the powerful connection between religion and everyday cultural expression. The writer was Ellen Barry, who shared a staff Pulitzer Prize while previously working in the paper’s Moscow bureau.

Conveying the daily experiences of ordinary people living in a distant and different culture requires a level of empathetic insight and writing skill greater than that of the average newspaper reporter. Barry’s that kind of journalist; she’s able to turn the travails of ordinary individuals into highly readable copy

This story focuses on how a man got away with murdering his wife -- a circumstance that unfortunately happens far too often in rural India.

For that he can thank corrupt local officials and ingrained male disrespect for women -- particularly poor women -- rooted in South Asia’s Vedic-origin caste system. The Vedas are Hinduism earliest scriptural writings and are estimated to be between 2,500 to 3,500 years old.

This, despite Indian laws making caste discrimination illegal.

(Before any non-Hindu readers dismiss this as solely a Hindu problem, note that the Wikipedia link in the previous paragraph, repeated here, makes clear that in India and neighboring (and primarily Hindu) Nepal, some Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Jews also have adhered to caste system protocols over the years.)

Barry’s story is long, around 3,500 words, but it stays interesting to its conclusion and it's worth reading in full.

I like how Barry documented her dogged reporting technique, returning time and again to re-interview people, often asking the same reworded questions over and over. That kind of intensive reporting becomes more rare with each passing news cycle.

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Asking The Forward: Why is this story (not very) different from all other 'Christian' Passover stories?

Asking The Forward: Why is this story (not very) different from all other 'Christian' Passover stories?

If you know nothing else about Passover, the Jewish festival that began on the evening of April 10, you might well know of the Seder dinner, its liturgy called a "Haggadah" and the "Four Questions" the youngest participant gets to ask during the meal.

The first question is perhaps the most famous: "Why is this night different from all other nights?" The brief answer is that the eight-day feast commemorates the liberation of the ancient Hebrews from slavery and bondage in Egypt.

Zoom ahead to 2017 and The Forward. This is a New York City-based Jewish news and commentary publication that, in the past year or so, has had a particular interest in evangelical Christians who appropriate Jewish themes and who endorsed then-candidate, now POTUS, Donald J. Trump.

Asks the paper, "Evangelicals Are Falling In Love With Passover -- Is There Anything Wrong With That?" Let's jump in:

In March, Florida televangelist Paula White gave her followers a special holiday message. Not for Easter, which falls in mid-April, but for the Jewish holiday of Passover.
“We are entering into one of the most supranational and miraculous seasons,” White, who is also a spiritual adviser to President Trump, said in a special video. “The season of Passover.” ...
In the traditional Passover story, God commands the Israelites to sacrifice lambs and to spread blood on their doorways so that they may be spared God’s wrath. Christians view the sacrificial lamb as an analogy for Jesus’ death, and the Israelites’ salvation as their own as believers in Jesus.
“The lamb’s blood became their salvation or their deliverance,” White said, referring to the Israelites. “Our Passover lamb, Jesus, is for your deliverance today.”

Many evangelical Christians, and more than a few Protestant mainliners, wouldn't find much to argue with in White's assertion.

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Dry bones transformed and other visions: What do Jews believe about life after death?

Dry bones transformed and other visions: What do Jews believe about life after death?

NORMAN’S QUESTION:

The Hebrew Bible makes no mention of an afterlife. When did this belief come into being among the Israelites, and why?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

This is an appropriate follow-up to our December 1 answer to Paula concerning “what does Christianity say happens to believers after death?”

True, the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (or for Christians the Old Testament) has no explicit and detailed concept of the afterlife such as we have in the New Testament. This whole topic has been considerably more central and developed in Christianity than in Judaism. However, Jewish authors offer a more complex scenario than that Jewish Scripture “makes no mention of an afterlife.” They observe that while most biblical references are vague, we see an evolution in belief. Some particulars:

Frequent references in Genesis, followed by the Psalms and the prophets, say that the dead abide in a shadowy state called sheol. Such passages as Ecclesiastes 9:5, Job 14:21, and Psalm 88:11-12 indicate that this involves no conscious existence.

On the other hand, the Bible depicts forms of life beyond death in Genesis 5:24 (Enoch taken directly to God), 2 Kings 2:11 (the same with Elijah), 1 Samuel 2:6 (God “brings down to sheol and raises up”), Psalm 49:15 (“God will ransom my soul from the power of sheol, for he will receive me”), and Saul’s notable conversation with the deceased Samuel in 1 Samuel 28.

Also, sages interpreted the prophet Ezekiel’s “dry bones” vision in chapter 37 as depicting a communal afterlife for Israel, and the Talmud saw Isaiah 60:21 (“they shall possess the land forever”) in terms of bodily resurrection.

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Castro's death: For a follow-up, Associated Press story misses big religious angles

Castro's death: For a follow-up, Associated Press story misses big religious angles

The banging pots and honking horns have faded on Miami's Calle Ocho, where Cuban-Americans noisily celebrated the death of Fidel Castro. Thus, it's time for some reflection on what it means for peace and freedom -- including freedom of religion.

So the Associated Press shows the right instinct in its Sunday story out of Miami on the aftermath of El Comandante's death. Yet it largely leaves ghostly trails in what could have offered some spiritual insights on the story.

We get early warnings of a scattershot story:

MIAMI (AP) -- Celebration turned to somber reflection and church services Sunday as Cuban-Americans in Miami largely stayed off the streets following a raucous daylong party in which thousands marked the death of Fidel Castro.
One Cuban exile car dealer, however, sought to turn the revolutionary socialist's death into a quintessential capitalist deal by offering $15,000 discounts on some models.
And on the airwaves, top aides to President-elect Donald Trump promised a hard look at the recent thaw in U.S. relations with Cuba.

Cuba, as you may or may not know, is on the watch list of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. USCIRF's 2016 report tells of increased surveillance, harassment, closure and destruction of churches there -- on a level with the likes of Russia, Malaysia, Turkey and Afghanistan.

But here is AP's version of the religious facet in this story:

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Religious Trump reaction: RNS struggles to find a range of actual human voices

Religious Trump reaction: RNS struggles to find a range of actual human voices

When news spread that Donald Trump won the presidential election, I got the sense that the various elites -- cultural, political, mainstream media -- were reacting like Family Guy's Chris Griffin:  "Whaaaattt??"

The Religion News Service, at least, tried to gather responses from religious leaders, rather than have secular pundits opine about them. But that mechanical approach -- which tmatt likes to call post-Interview Journalism™ -- has weaknesses of its own.

It's not that RNS lacked effort. It compiled a long list of comments. A long, long list. Nearly 2,400 words, with 17 sources.

RNS also attempts some balance, backed up by numbers, as the top shows:

Some celebrated and congratulated the victor. Others prayed and called for unity. It was clear early on that evangelical Christians had been key to Donald Trump’s stunning upset.
Meanwhile, others including atheists and Muslims reacted in shock and vowed to defend against what one group termed “unconstitutional and undemocratic actions.”
According to exit polls, 81 percent of white evangelicals and born-again Christians cast their ballots for the reality TV star-turned-Republican presidential candidate.
It was a higher figure than voted for Mitt Romney (79 percent) in 2012, John McCain (73 percent) four years before that or George Bush (79 percent) in 2004.

From there, we get a smorgasbord of quotes. Here's a sample.

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Targeting churches: Fox News produces ominous report on threats in America

Targeting churches: Fox News produces ominous report on threats in America

No one is saying, yet, that terrorists are ready to attack American churches the way they have in the Middle East or, more recently, against the Rev. Jacques Hamel in France. But as Fox News reports, the threats are already looming.

And before you say, "What else would Fox say?", consider the examples in the article: hate speech, death threats and aborted attack plans of the type that would be familiar to Jewish leaders.

This is how ominous it can get -- and how some police are slow to address the situation, according to Fox:

As Father Josiah Trenham prepared to read the Gospel, several parishioners discreetly scooped up their babies, retreated up the aisles of St. Andrew Orthodox Church and out into the spring air, so as not to allow the crying of little ones to disturb the divine liturgy.
The time-honored tradition was shattered when a car passed by the Riverside, Calif., church, slowing down as the front passenger leaned out of his window and bellowed menacingly through a bullhorn, according to witnesses.
"Allahu Akbar!" the unidentified man repeated several times as the unnerved parents drew their infants close and exchanged worried glances.
Witnesses were able to give Riverside police a description of the green Honda Civic, but not of the three occupants. Some told police they believed one or more of the men may have been taking photographs, according to Officer Ryan Railsback. Although Trenham insisted multiple congregants heard the Arabic phrase, Railsback noted no mention of it was in the police report. 
Whatever the case, no law was broken – even if an unmistakable message was sent and received.

Fox, of course, is hardly the only news outfit to notice the hatred of jihadis against Christians. As The Guardian reports, more and more voices are calling for branding the "genocide" label onto the brutalizing of Christians in the Middle East.

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Muslims vote for a Jew! Some journalists make strawman of Sanders' win in Dearborn

Muslims vote for a Jew! Some journalists make strawman of Sanders' win in Dearborn

The Michigan primary was settled on Tuesday, but some mainstream media are still chattering over Dearborn -- a city said to be 30-40 percent Arab, yet voted decisively for the lone Jewish candidate, Bernie Sanders.

And so many are still crowing about how so very wrong the pundits were to fret over anti-Semitism, it's hard to find the fretting. The stories are almost all "Nyah, nyah, we knew it all along."

The International Business Times let out some of the loudest chortles:

As the results rolled in, television pundits like Lawrence O’Donnell and Chuck Todd marveled on MSNBC that Sanders was doing so well in Dearborn “despite” the large Arab-American population there. WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer tweeted that Sanders’ dominance in Dearborn was “the stat of the night,” later adding “It’s official: Arab city feels the Jewish Bern.” Meanwhile, The Week dubbed it “just one more strange data point in an election overflowing with them.”
The assumption implicit in such commentary, of course, is that Muslims are biased against Jews — and that when they do cast a vote for Jewish candidates, it’s because they’ve somehow managed to overcome their own inherent anti-Semitism. But this fascination with Dearborn’s support of Sanders actually demonstrates the media industry’s own all-too-prevalent prejudice — and reveals how much reporting on American Muslims is still rooted in an unsophisticated naiveté about what motivates them.

The article quotes a prof saying that “the ‘Muslims voting for a Jew’ tagline is trite." And it quotes a Libyan-American writer saying that mainstream media are "guilty of promoting two-dimensional caricatures of Muslims and Arabs."
 
IBTimes isn’t the only miscreant, of course. The Huffington Post began its stridence yesterday with the headline: "Yes, Muslims Voted for A Jewish Candidate. Pundits Shouldn't Be Surprised." Added the subhead: "Arab-Americans in Dearborn, Michigan, shut down uneducated commentary about their support for Bernie Sanders."

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Ongoing Europe migrant crisis story: Sorry, but a public pork blitz alone won't fix it

Ongoing Europe migrant crisis story: Sorry, but a public pork blitz alone won't fix it

Ever hear of the subset known as gastronomical Jews? They're not religious, or at least not when it comes to mainstream Judaism. They don't connect to Jewish communal organizations. Israel's problems -- well maybe they're problems for the cousins, but not them. Why bother with all that craziness?

But boy, do they love to eat "Jewish." To which I say, what's not to like?

There's juicy hot pastrami on rye spiced with mustard (above), chicken matzoh ball soup and matzoh brei. There's also proper New York-style (always boiled first then baked) bagels, lox and cream cheese, and various kinds of pickled herring -- to name just a few of my favorites.

For end-stage gastronomical Jews, the taste of their favorite childhood foods is their last meaningful tie to their Jewish roots. For some, that fragile tie finally snaps when some cardiologist says it's time to cut back on the carbs, salt and artery-clogging fats packed into the traditional Ashkenazi Jewish diet.

In short, food is certainly a cultural and religious marker, which is why holiday food stories are a staple of feature section religion journalism.

But -- in a world where frozen, commercially pre-packaged (and comparatively tasteless, I might add) bagels can be had virtually anywhere there's a freezer -- food alone is no guarantee that a culture, any culture, will live on in its fullness.

Which brings me to Europe's ongoing attempts to manage its migrant crisis (click here for an exhaustive update) and a recent New York Times story about a Danish town's attempt to cope with it by eating pork.

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