fundamentalists

Toughest church-states battles: When faith-healing doctrines lead to children dying

Toughest church-states battles: When faith-healing doctrines lead to children dying

Anyone who has studied the separation of church and state knows that there are all kinds of issues in this field that cry out for compromise -- but compromises acceptable to both sides are often next to impossible to find.

No, I am not talking about LGBTQ issues that pit religious liberty against emerging concepts of sexual liberty.

I'm talking about cases in which the religious convictions of parents -- specifically the belief that all medical issues should be handled through prayer and "natural" remedies -- lead to the death of children. Basically, courts are being asked to draw a line limiting parental rights, when it comes to a contest between faith and modern medicine.

As a rule, state officials are supposed to avoid becoming entangled in matters of faith and doctrine. However, there are limits. Here at GetReligion, I have repeatedly noted that state officials have the right to intervene when cases involve fraud, profit and clear threat to life and health. "Faith healing" cases pivot on whether a religious group's teachings represent a "clear threat" to believers, especially children.

A reader recently pointed me to a massive PennLive.com (Gannett newspapers in Central Pennsylvania) report that ran under the headline: "God's will vs. medicine: Does Faith Tabernacle beliefs put children at risk?"

I want to stress that there is much to recommend in this piece, including the fact that it places debates about Pennsylvania law affecting "faith healing" in the context of ongoing national debates about Christian Science, the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the traditions of the Amish and others. There are places where I would question the wording used by the PennLive.com team, but I still want to salute the research done here.

This piece is way better than the norm on this difficult topic. Here is a long, but crucial passage:

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New Pew study: Are Americans feeling warm and fuzzy when they think about religious believers?

New Pew study: Are Americans feeling warm and fuzzy when they think about religious believers?

When you stop and think about religion, politics and the tone of American public life over the past year or two, are the words "warm" and "fuzzy" the first things that come to mind?

Probably not.

Let's make that question more specific, which is what host Todd Wilken and I did in this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in). When you think about the tone of American debates about issues linked to religious faith -- think LGBTQ rights and religious liberty clashes, or the refugee crisis and terrorism threats linked to the Islamic State -- do you have warm, fuzzy, cheerful feelings about what has been going on and the future?

Probably not. 

Well, in that context you can understand why a blast of new numbers from the Pew Research Center made a few headlines this past week. Click here to see the previous GetReligion post on this topic, including links to the study and some of the coverage.

Once again, the content of that study was summarized in this rather warm and fuzzy double-decker headline at the Pew website:

Americans Express Increasingly Warm Feelings Toward Religious Groups
Jews, Catholics continue to receive warmest ratings, atheists and Muslims move from cool to neutral

The lede at The New York Times took that basic idea and, of course, framed it -- logically enough -- in the context of the bitter 2016 race for the White House.

After an election year that stirred up animosity across racial and religious lines, a new survey has found that Americans are actually feeling warmer toward people in nearly every religious group -- including Muslims -- than they did three years ago.

Now think about this one more time. Go back to the questions at the top of this post. Isn't it logical to ask WHY Americans are feeling warmer and fuzzier feelings about various religious groups right now, when most of the evidence in public discourse -- certainly at the level of headlines and social media -- is suggesting the opposite?

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Daily life may collide with law: Why do so many religions care what believers wear?

Daily life may collide with law: Why do so many religions care what believers wear?

“ERASMUS” ASKS:

Why do the religious authorities feel strongly about what we wear when we go about our daily lives, when we worship -- or indeed when we swim?

THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:

One evening The Religion Guy was at the house of a physician who got an emergency summons to visit a hospital patient. Before departing, he took time to change from a polo shirt, ragged jeans, and sneakers into a dark suit, freshly starched white shirt, tie, and shiny shoes. I asked why bother. He explained that no matter what he wears he’s fully focused on a medical problem, but a vulnerable patient cannot know this and needs visual reassurance.

Point is, clothing and related visuals are ingrained in human interactions, even in the highly individualistic United States. Judges always preside in robes, morticians wear somber suits, uniforms identify security personnel, prisoners or gang memers announce solidarity with tattoos, and teens’ fashions obey social expectations.

So it’s no surprise if many religions ask believers to signify their identity, heritage, devotion, or desired virtues in the same way. That’s the basic answer to the “why” question, but let’s scan some examples.

Religious traditions can provoke public disputes. At this writing Nebraska is discussing whether to cancel a law forbidding religious garb in public schools, which barred hiring of a Catholic nun. This obscure law from 1919 was part of the Ku Klux Klan’s anti-Catholic campaign. The AP reports 36 U.S. states had such laws at one time but now Pennsylvania is the only other state with one. In France, school disputes evolved into a nationwide ban on conspicuous religious garb, aimed especially at Muslim women’s headscarves, followed by a ban on their full face coverings as a security measure.

Faith groups typically define attire and regalia for official functions, whether prescribed robes for Eastern gurus or mitres for popes. Protestant preachers may wear suits or the female equivalent when leading worship (while megachurch preachers favor Technicolor shirts to signal user-friendly informality). We can leave aside clergy complexities since “we” in the question refers to ordinary lay folk.

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Franklin Graham: Another Trump? Yes and no, RNS profile says

Franklin Graham: Another Trump? Yes and no, RNS profile says

The Religion News Service takes a skeptical but fair-minded look at Franklin Graham -- his beliefs, his politics, his differences from his famed father, Billy Graham -- in a satisfyingly long profile rolled out for Super Tuesday week.

And no, that’s not a chance coincidence, as Godbeat veteran Cathy Lynn Grossman crafts the story:

While Donald Trump campaigns to "Make America great again," Franklin Graham, facing a nation where conservative believers are losing cultural clout, wants to make it Christian again. Week after week, he stands on winter-wind-swept statehouse steps and exhorts crowds like a biblical Nehemiah, warning people to repent to rebuild Jerusalem — with a gospel twist. He urges them to pray first and then vote for Bible-believing evangelical candidates.
But you can’t vote for him.
"No, no!" he is "absolutely not" running for office, said Graham, who tends to rat-a-tat-tat his points.
Instead, he exhorts his listeners to run themselves, starting with local city and county offices. Imagine, he says at every tour stop, the impact on society if "the majority of the school boards were controlled by evangelical Christians."

This sweeping, 2,200-word article is impressive, though not without a couple of issues. It tells of Franklin's rise in building the Samaritan's Purse charity, from a small medical mission into one of the largest disaster relief and development agencies in the U.S. And it adroitly parallels the presidential primary campaigns with Franklin's $10 million "Decision America" barnstorming tour, which often "takes him into town just ahead of a primary or caucus."

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Calvin the Fundamentalist and other General Synod myths

Calvin the Fundamentalist and other General Synod myths

Monday's vote by the General Synod to allow women bishops has put the Church of England onto the front pages of the world's press. News reports and commentary from around the globe have weighed on this development giving voice to a variety of opinions. Some of this reporting has been quite good, most of it average, while a few pieces have fallen short.

The Huffington Post's piece contained two errors of note. At the end of the piece the article confused the numbers for the Church of England for the wider Anglican Communion. A correction subsequently noted:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said incorrectly that the Church of England has 80 million members in more than 160 countries. Those are the figures for the worldwide Anglican Communion.

A minor slip, but the second raised questions as to whether the Huffington Post followed the debate, or recycled information it had gleaned from second hand sources. The article stated:

Like the vote that year, more traditional Anglicans, including evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics, argued in front of the synod that having women as bishops would go against the teachings of Jesus. If Jesus intended women to be among the top church leaders, he would have had a woman among the Twelve Apostles, some of the traditionalists said.

By my reckoning, of the almost 100 speakers in the day, only one (lay delegate Jane Bisson from the Diocese of Winchester) raised the issue: "If Jesus intended women to be among the top church leaders, he would have had a woman among the Twelve Apostles." The overwhelming majority of voices opposed to the change in church teaching couched their arguments around the Apostle Paul's teachings on "headship" and the role of women in church assemblies -- with arguments from tradition running second. Check for yourself.

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Fundamental misunderstandings of 'fundamentalism'

When it comes to religious terms, you would be hard pressed to find a word more misapplied by the media than “fundamentalist.”

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On sex: Smart black Christians vs. you know who

Brace yourselves, GetReligion readers. I am about to do something shocking.

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