Monday Godbytes

Godbytes is back! The Pope is calling for a “credible” international deal on climate change. The Washington Post has a video piece on how the new translation of the Catholic mass is playing out in different parishes. The Washington Post also reports that religious lobbying groups are getting larger and more influential on Capitol Hill. Conservative Jews are struggling to come up with wedding rites for gay couples, the Jewish Daily Forward reports.

Pope Benedict XVI slapped with charges for not wearing seat belt

BERLIN (RNS) Just because the pope gets to ride in the popemobile doesn’t give him license not to wear a seat belt. So says an unnamed German man who filed charges against Pope Benedict XVI for allegedly failing to use a seat belt while touring Germany on an official visit in September. Attorney Christian Sundermann confirmed that the complaint was filed with authorities in Freiburg, the southern German city that was Benedict’s last stop during his German visit, according to the newspaper Der Westen. The unnamed plaintiff, from Dortmund, argues that the pope was seen several times during the visit without a seat belt. The complaint offers several eyewitnesses, including the archbishop of Freiburg, the head of the German Conference of Bishops and the premier of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, where Freiburg sits. The complaint refers to a “Mr. Joseph Ratzinger” — the German-born pope’s given name — and sightings of him on Sept. 24 and 25 riding in a vehicle without a seat belt “for more than an hour.”

Tunisia a test for what ‘moderate’ Islam looks like

TUNIS, Tunisia (RNS) Nearly a year after Tunisia set off the Arab Spring of popular revolt, the face of political Islam in this fledgling democracy is a 47-year-old pharmaceutical executive who favors tailored suits and stiletto heels. Souad Abderrahim’s main political experience was as a student union leader more than two decades ago, but the political neophyte is now cheered at rallies and trailed by the media as a leader of Ennahda, the Islamist party that is now the main political force in this North African country. Abderrahim holds a seat in the country’s new Constituent Assembly, charged with drafting a new constitution following the downfall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia for nearly a quarter century. The mother of two said she felt compelled to emerge as a spokeswoman to cut down fears that Ennahda would curb women’s rights or mix conservative religion and politics. “When I saw the phobia on the streets about Ennahda as a hard, backwards party, I felt it was important to be with them and shed light on this false image,” she said.

MondayâÂ?Â?s Religion Roundup: Cyber Monday, Black Atheists, New Mass

Welcome to Cyber Monday! Hey, it’s got to be safer than Black Friday: less chance of pepper spray, Tasers, fisticuffs. At least in my house. Mostly. Diana Butler Bass cautions we preachers and elitists from savoring the low-hanging fruit of consumer bashing: “[T]he oddest thing about the folks in lines at those discount stores: They are mostly poor, working class, or marginally middle class.

Pope v. Capitalism

Over at Chiesa, Vaticanista Sandro Magister has walked way back his scoop that Vatican Secretary of State Tarciso Bertone was so appalled by last month’s statement on financial reform from the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace that he ordered that “any new Vatican text will have to be authorized in advance” by himself. Not:With respect what www.chiesa originally reported, it should be noted
that the requirement of advance review by the secretariat of state
applies exclusively to texts that bear the signature of the pope, and
not to those simply signed by the heads of one of the offices of the
Roman curia.The memo therefore cannot refer, strictly speaking,
to the document from the pontifical council for justice and peace
presented at the Vatican press office on October 24, entitled “Towards
reforming the international financial and monetary systems in the
context of global public authority.” A document not signed  by Benedict
XVI, but only by the heads of that dicastery.Loosely speaking too. Because it looks like Pope Benedict himself is down with that document and its dim view of the wages of the current international financial system. Getting off the plane in Benin a week ago, he warned against “unconditional surrender to the law of the market or that of finance” and, in a prepared document, asked all members of the church to “work and speak out in favor of an economy that cares for the poor and
is resolutely opposed to an unjust order which, under the pretext of
reducing poverty, has often helped to aggravate it.”I think that’s a request that includes George Weigel, Donald McClarey, and the rest of the conservative Catholic crowd that expends so much energy trying to prove that Rome does not mean what Rome says when the subject is Capitalism.

White evangelicals don’t hate Romney

If I were on Team Romney, I’d be fairly heartened by the latest Pew survey on religion and politics. It’s true that white evangelicals are disproportionately less likely to prefer our guy, but not by a very large margin–17 percent of them as opposed to 23 percent of the GOP primary electorate as a whole. Put another way, if white evangelicals preferred him at the same rate as mainline Protestants and white Catholics–the two other major GOP religious groupings–he’d be polling at no higher than 26 percent. In the entire field, the evangelical vote is sufficiently dispersed that Herman Cain, with the plurality, garners only 26 percent and Newt Gingrich only 19. Compare that to, say, the 2008 South Carolina primary, which John McCain won with 33 percent of the vote, just ahead of Mike Huckabee’s 30 percent.

Thanks, Folks!

It’s been four years since I locked myself into this enterprise, and as forms of bondage go, there’s a lot to be thankful for. You’re made to watch the world go by and write down your thoughts about it, while people come around to check on your reactions and occasionally favor you with their own. On this day, then, a hearty thank-you to passersby, especially the regulars, wherever you may be.

Was the first Thanksgiving a religious celebration?

(RNS) If you want to prepare for Thanksgiving like a real Pilgrim this year, here’s what you should do: Cancel the plane reservations. Stop jotting down recipes. Leave the libations alone. For the Pilgrims and Puritans, “thanksgiving” days were spontaneous and sober affairs. When friends arrived from overseas, European Protestants defeated Catholics in battle, or a bumper crop was reaped, the Pilgrims dedicated a day to thanking divine Providence.

Wednesday’s Religion News Roundup: Thanksgiving, religious lobbying, ugly churches

Thanksgiving plans got you stressed out? The Rev. James Martin has some advice for dealing with turkeys – of the human persuasion. The antidote, says Father Martin, is laughter. J.J. Goldberg of The Forward says Thanksgiving is not a time to celebrate if others are getting rich at our expense. Give thanks to God, “when we receive our fair share – and hell to pay for those who grab it away,” says he.

Poll: Mitt Romney’s Mormonism could be a primary problem

(RNS) If Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney can secure the nomination, his Mormon faith shouldn’t be an obstacle for voters in the general election, according to a survey released Wednesday (Nov. 23). That may be a big “if.” The survey from the Pew Research Center shows that white evangelical Protestants — the heart of the GOP primary electorate — are most likely to know Romney is a Mormon, and least likely to support him. That news comes as polls show Newt Gingrich emerging as Romney’s chief rival for the nomination, and as the focus turns to the Iowa caucuses in early January.

Clergy, too, battle porn addiction—often alone

(RNS) For years, the Rev. Bernie Anderson carried a shameful secret — one he feared would destroy his marriage, his career, his standing in the community, even his spiritual identity. He was addicted to pornography. Like many others facing a similar struggle, the pastor, now at Wasatch Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church in Salt Lake City, wrestled with his problem alone, praying it would somehow go away. It didn’t. Never does, experts say.

Workplace religious complaints double in last decade

CLEVELAND (RNS) Northeast Ohio native Suhad Hasan says neither her Muslim faith nor her headscarf should be an issue where she works. But she said they were while she was a sales associate at the Old Navy clothing store in Santa Clara, Calif., three years ago. Hasan said she was assigned to work in the fitting room and was never offered training for other positions, despite her repeated requests. After several months, Hasan moved back to Ohio, only to be denied what she said was supposed to be an automatic transfer to a job in another Old Navy store. She found herself without a job.

Michele Bachmann church timeline UPDATED

Because the timing of Michele Bachmann’s departure from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod came so close to the official launch of her presidential campaign, many minds have drawn a link between the two, especially since WELS holds anti-papal beliefs that, while they are centuries old, could potentially alienate Catholic voters. Since the story of Bachmann’s leaving WELS has changed, and her family has reportedly joined at least two different churches, we thought it would be useful to provide a timeline with links. On June 14, the AP reported: “Until about two years ago, the Bachmanns were members of the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minn., part of a conservative denomination that adheres to strict doctrine and excludes women from church leadership roles. The pastor there, the Rev. Marcus Birkholz, told the AP that the family stopped attending regularly when they moved to another Twin Cities suburb.” Spiritual Politics blogger Mark Silk noted that while the Bachmanns did move, it wasn’t to another suburb, and their new home was an eight-minute drive from Salem.

Bachmann’s new new church

Last July, when Michele Bachmann was riding high in the polls and grabbing general media attention, a question arose about where she and her husband Marcus go to church. The story was that they had given up their longtime affiliation with Salem Lutheran Church and joined an evangelical megachurch called Eagle Brook because they had moved their residence and wanted to be closer to where they worshiped. A little mapquesting showed, however, that all four Eagle Brook campuses were farther away from their new home than Salem Lutheran. The suspicion arose that the move actually had to do with Bachmann’s desire not to be affiliated with Salem Lutheran because, as a member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, it was tied to statement of faith that consider the Pope to be the Antichrist–which became a bit controversial the last time Bachmann ran for Congress. Such doctrinal baggage had best be jettisoned in a run for the presidency, no?Now it seems that the Bachmann’s have joined another evangelical church–for the same alleged reason as before.

Angry churches pull money from big banks

(RNS) A small but growing number of religious communities across the country are removing their money from Wall Street banks to protest what they see as unfair mortgage foreclosures and unwillingness to lend to small businesses. The New Bottom Line (NBL) coalition of congregations, community organizations, labor unions and individuals is promoting a “Move Our Money” campaign with the goal of shifting $1 billion from big banks to community banks and credit unions. “In a way, the banks have divested from our communities, especially communities of color,” said the Rev. Ryan Bell, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in Los Angeles. “So we’re basically telling Bank of America that we want them to invest in our communities, and until they do that we’re not going to give our money to them.” Bell’s church was one of six Los Angeles Christian congregations that announced they would divest a collective $2 million from Bank of America and Wells Fargo as part of the Move Our Money campaign.