Hunger Games * Identity shifts * Finding home: Friday’s Roundup

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The Olympics are underway, featuring stories of human struggle -- and we don't just mean the games.

The Olympics are underway, featuring stories of human struggle -- and we don't just mean the games.

Today is:

— Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Catholic funeral. David Gibson gives the bittersweet explanation of why the service for the talented, drug-haunted Oscar winner will be at a Jesuit church, the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

— The evening U.S. broadcast of the official opening ceremony for the Olympics. Russia is betting the world will be swept by spectacle and overlook the dark side of the human rights affronts, massive fraud and general ineptitude surrounding Sochi and the games. “GQ” looks at the terrors facing gays in Russia.

But there are charming, quirky stories to be found in Sochi including Moroccan Muslims on skis.

— The unofficial return to national political vitriol after Thursday morning’s brief bipartisan hiatus for the annual National Prayer Breakfast.

President Obama focused on his personal faith and on commitment to international religious freedom. “On Freedom” blogger Brian Pellot examines the subtexts in the speech. (Watch it here.) But all that unity was jettisoned by noon as critics of the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate slammed Obama for what they see as a trouncing of religious freedom here at home. And by afternoon, House Majority Leader John Boehner had announced that one reason they would not go forward with immigration reform was distrust of Obama.

On the up note, the “Francis Effect” — the impact of the pope’s determination to focus on the poor not the pomp of his office — proves great for charity (his Harley sold for 25 times its value, pumping $325,000 to the Catholic charity Caritas) and not so great for Rome’s tailors.

The pope may appreciate his brand as the face of humble service but not everyone likes the label that’s been slapped on them by others. Some letter-of-Torah-law Jews are chafing at the political, social, cultural baggage attached to the label of “Ultra-Orthodox” (as opposed to simply Orthodox or Modern Orthodox or, well, what?).

What is true identity any way? RNS columnist Jonathan Merritt explores the question with the pastor of an evangelical church in the gay mecca of San Francisco, Dave Lomas, author of “The Truest Thing about You: Identity, Desire, and Why it All Matters.”

Shifting religious labels may throw a scare into Republicans in the not-too-distant future. Recent study shows the growing ranks of people who claim no religion – the Nones, who are heavily Democrats  – are drawing down the headcount for white evangelicals, who are heavily Republican. Mark Silk’s “Spiritual Politics” blog analyzes the political play out.

Weddings are a lucrative retail opportunity for scads of vendors – a chance to sell cakes, flowers, photos, dresses and more. But some vendors with religious objections to gay marriage want the legal right to opt out of selling to gay couples. Oregon voters may give it to them as part of a ballot initiative to legalize same-sex marriage. My own Faith & Reason blog looks at how that could prove painful on both sides of the bakery counter.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore (of 10-Commandments-monument fame) is writing to the Oregon governor and 49 other govs asking them to join in a push for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Finding solid ground in faith and family is an ongoing journey, says RNS’s newest blogger, Rachel Marie Stone, who makes her home in Malawi. Join her engaging explorations in “Finding Faith, Finding Home.” Today’s post examines what she learned watching Phillip Seymour Hoffman on stage and screen.


On the not-so-wedded bliss front: An Indian high court has ruled that Christians must wait a year to file for divorce, just like Hindus, instead of two years.

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  • Kevan Scott

    David Gibson’s article on the funeral of Philip Hoffman is a worth read. I have no problem with any person of any faith saying that they believe homosexuality is a sin. What I do have a problem with is the hate of the person by those that believe it is a sin. Advocating for the death of anyone for being a homosexual is wrong, as is the hate of that person. Jesus himself said that if you hate another it is the same as if you murdered them. 2. Didn’t Jesus pay for all our sins on the cross? 3. Why aren’t these same people who are supporting death and imprisonment for gays screaming just as loud for death and imprisonment for adulter’s? Or for that matter, stoneing of those that wear cotton-polyester blends? Yes, it says that in the Bible too! I’ll stick with my acceptance of gays as wholly equal persons as I. We are all human and sinners, if you believe in such, and I’ll love and tolerate and accept the gay person just as much as another and leave the judgements up to the One who said not to judge another!

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  • David Schneier

    Anyone who claims to be a Christian and advocates killing homosexuals cannot be a follower of Jesus. Having said that, to equate someone’s belief that homosexuality is a sin with someone who wants to kill homosexuals or hate them is nonsense. I have never met a follower of Jesus who wanted to kill a homosexual so where is this comment coming from? This whole thing os overblown. What ever happened to the free market place of ideas. When we cannot speak what we want about any topic and associate with those who believe the same (except yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, we are heading into a dark place for democracy. Jesus was a friend of sinners AND he told them to go and sin no more.