FaithWorld

Looking for the red lines between Christianity and Islam

Christian crosses and Muslim crescent in Beirut, 28 Nov 2006/Eric GaillardCan someone be Christian and Muslim at the same time? This came up over the weekend in two articles from almost opposite sides of the globe.

Rev. Ann Holmes Redding in Seattle thinks she can be both. Her Episcopal Church does not and is moving toward defrocking her if she does not renounce Islam. Redding, who has been an Episcopal priest for 25 years, first announced her dual faith over a year ago and was given 15 months to think it over. Now facing defrocking, she told Janet Tu of the Seattle Times that she is “still following Jesus in being a Muslim” and feels “privileged to see God in more places, rather than fewer places.”

Now take a Google Earth-style leap to Istanbul. There, Mustafa Akyol asked in the Turkish Daily News whether Islam required Christians and Jews to give up their traditions in order to be saved. The standard answer is yes, but Hayrettin Karaman, a professor emeritus of Islamic law, recently questioned that in the conservative Islamic daily newspaper Yeni Safak. “He noted that Islam does not necessarily ask Christians and Jews to abandon their traditions. It rather tells them to keep their traditions while respecting Islam as a sister faith,” Akyol wrote.

On the blog GetReligion, Mollie asks exactly where the doctrinal lines are. Judging from these two articles, it seems that Christians draw a clear line but Muslims may not. Is this the case? And if so, what does that mean for Christian-Muslim dialogue?

Could pro-choice Obama reduce the U.S. abortion rate?

Matthew 25 Network logoFinancial fears and campaign-trail mud-slinging have so dominated the U.S. presidential race in recent weeks that several issues worth serious debate have mostly drifted off the public radar screen. Judging by the latest presidential debate, one of them off on the sidelines now is abortion. This has hit my radar screen, though, because some Barack Obama supporters have made what seems to be an incredible claim — that the most pro-choice candidate in the running could actually lower the overall number of abortions in the United States. Huh?

The Matthew 25 Network, which calls itself “pro-life pro-Obama,” says “an Obama administration will do more than a McCain administration for the cause of life, by drastically reducing abortions through giving women and families the support and the tools they need to choose life.”

Over at Beliefnet, editor-in-chief Steve Waldman has two very interesting posts about this. The first one says that Obama supports Medicaid funding for abortion, which obviously would make getting one easier. The Democratic candidate also supports the Freedom of Choice Act, which “would wipe out state laws, including moderate ones that merely require parental notification for teens seeking abortion.” So it looks like total abortions would rise during an Obama administration.

Who is the most Christian among U.S. candidates?

Given the faith factor in U.S. politics, it was probably inevitable that someone would come up with a poll asking who is the most Christian among the presidential and vice presidential candidates. The Times in London has done it — and come up with some interesting results so far. After an initial lead by the candidate thought to appeal most to evangelical Christians, the candidate now way out in front is the one who rumours say isn’t a Christian at all.

Articles of Faith blogThe online poll is open until next Wednesday, so click to Ruth Gledhill’s blog Articles of Faith to vote. The poll is a bit confusing — the post starts out asking whether Sarah Palin is a good Christian and then presents a voting table asking you to choose the “better Christian” among the presidential and vice presidential candidates. The winner of a four-horse race should be termed the “best” in the group, but maybe that sounds too judgmental.

Anyway, after voting, let us know here if you think this poll is representative of American voters’ views or skewed by votes from outside the United States.

“Religulous” — a film call to atheist arms

Maher and director Larry Charles pose during Toronto International Film Festival, 7 Sept 2008/Mark BlinchComedian and talk-show host Bill Maher has issued the latest “call to atheist arms” in his recently released documentary “Religulous.”

He wants his fellow non-believers and doubters to “come out of the closet” to counter what he views as religion’s dangerous influence on the world. To do so, he preaches to the converted in “Religulous”, a scathing documentary that skewers Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

The film is part of the “neo-atheist” backlash to the rising influence of religion in public life, following a path recently blazed by a trio of best-selling books by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Dawkins, a renowned Oxford biologist, has also presented a documentary critical of religion called “Root of all Evil?” on British television.

What Americans hear in church

If you’re a white evangelical or black Protestant attending church in America, you have probably heard a thing or two about homosexuality. If you’re Catholic, maybe not.

church-2.jpg

Those are among the findings of a new survey conducted by Public Religion Research on behalf of Faith in Public Life, a non-partisan resource center.

It found that among the white evangelicals and black Protestants surveyed, 67 percent said their pastor speaks out about the issue of homosexuality — among Catholics that number drops to 37 percent.

Monthly church attenders swing Obama’s way

Americans who attend church once or twice a month have become a sought after “swing vote” — and they are swinging to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in the run-up to the Nov 4. presidential election.

cans.jpg

That is one of the key findings of a new survey conducted by Public Religion Research on behalf of Faith in Public Life, a non-partisan resource center.

It found that, based on religious service attendance, the biggest shift in candidate preferences between 2004 and 2008 was among those who went once or twice a month. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry got 49 percent of their vote in 2004 while Obama is now pulling 60 percent.

Novel about Mohammad’s wife published — what comes next?

Cover of The Jewel of MedinaThe Jewel of Medina, a novel about the Prophet Mohammad’s child bride Aisha already linked to an arson attack in London, was rushed into U.S. bookstores on Monday in a bid to head off any other violence. Author Sherry Jones says it’s a respectful account of Aisha’s life but Random House baulked at publishing it after being warned it could offend Muslims and provoke violence from a “small, radical segment”.

Publisher Eric Kampmann, president of the Beaufort Books company whose London office was firebombed, told Reuters that the surprise measure would help change the discussion about the book. “We felt that, given what was happening, it was better for everybody… to let the conversation switch from a conversation about terrorists and fearful publishers to a conversation about the merits of the book itself,” he said.

Comments from Muslims in Britain about The Jewel of Medina have been mixed, with some approving a vigorous protest and others saying their views have evolved since the Rushdie affair. Comments on blogs since the novel went out to U.S. bookshops range from those criticising it as a “flawed jewel”, those (like Ayaan Hirsi Ali) cheering the publisher for not caving in and those urging Muslims not to be provoked even by this “distorted picture of Aisha”. Some, citing a review saying it’s just a “second-rate bodice ripper-style romance”, wonder what the fuss is all about.

Has the faith factor fizzled in the U.S. campaign?

Joe Biden and Sarah Palin after vice presidential debate, 3 Oct 2008/Carlos BarriaAfter the 2004 election, the buzz was that religion was a key factor in U.S. election campaigns. It’s come up this year with Barack Obama’s “pastor problem,” speculation about Sarah Palin’s Pentecostal church and several other points. So I thought it was worth getting up in the middle of the night (cable TV had it from 3 a.m. here in Paris) to see what if any role religion played in her debate with Joe Biden.

From that narrow point of view, I could have stayed in bed.

The only interesting point on any of the usually divisive “culture war” issues was the way Palin agreed with Biden that gay and lesbian couples should not be denied legal benefits granted to married heterosexual couples. “No one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties,” she said. Neither supported gay marriage, but that was their stated position already.

With the financial crisis dominating the news these days, there was little chance that these issues would take up much time in the debate. But the fact that Palin didn’t use the wedge issue when it arose was interesting. According to a new study by Beliefnet “moral issues are dramatically less important this year than in previous years – even among the most religiously observant voters.”

Vatican official attacks U.S. Democrats as “party of death”

Senator Joe Biden with Catholic priest Zhang Depu near Beijing, 10 Aug 2001/poolVatican officials seldom single out political leaders who differ with the Church on issues like abortion rights or embryonic stem cell research. But now that the Vatican’s highest court is led by an American, the former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, we can expect things to get more explicit in Vatican City — at least when when it comes to U.S. politics.

Burke, who was named prefect of the Vatican’s Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature in June, told the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire that the U.S. Democratic Party risked “transforming itself definitively into a party of death for its decisions on bioethical issues.” He then attacked two of the party’s most high profile Catholics — vice presidential candidate Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — for misrepresenting Church teaching on abortion.

He said Biden and Pelosi, “while presenting themselves as good Catholics, have presented Church doctrine on abortion in a false and tendentious way.”

U.S. soldier sues over mandatory Christian prayers

A non-religious Kansas soldier is suing U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on the grounds that his constitutional rights were violated when he was forced to attend military events where “fundamentalist Christian prayers” were recited.

army.jpg

Specialist Dustin Chalker’s cause has been taken up by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), which is joining him in the suit.

The MRFF said in a statement that Chalker, a decorated Iraq war veteran stationed at Fort Riley in Kansas, “was forced to attend three events in late 2007 and in 2008  at which the battalion chaplain …  delivered  sectarian Christian prayers”.