Francis’ new selfie * Buddha’s new birthday * Mormon work zone: Tuesday’s Religion News Roundup

The pontiff rocks it again with a detailed new exhortation challenging his own church and ripping "trickle-down" economics. Don't drink or swear if you are building a Mormon temple. And check out the guy who says he married an agnostic but she turned out to be a Bible-thumper. Really?

Graphic via the Pew Research Center
Graphic via the Pew Research Center

Graphic via the Pew Research Center

1. POPE FRANCIS INTERVIEWS HIMSELF: Nothing off-the-cuff here, no journalistic reconstructions or inventions – Francis today released a major document, “The Joy of the Gospel,” that puts into official Vatican-ese some of the ideas and exhortations that have made him King of the Internet in these recent months. A taste: Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.” And wait till you read what he says about “trickle-down” economics.

2. NO “FRANCIS EFFECT” IN U.S. CHURCHES: The trickle-down theory apparently isn’t working for Francis either. The latest Pew Forum snapshot of Mass attendance in these past few months since the popular pontiff’s election shows Catholic churchgoing remains steady, with about 40 percent saying they attend Mass weekly. The percentage of Americans identifying as Catholics also remained flat.

3. TO BURY THE DEAD: A couple of postscripts to the Kennedy assassination anniversary – the commemorations focused so much on the killings of JFK, and his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, that we often overlooked the corporal works of mercy that attended their burials. Check out Jimmy Breslin’s journalistic touchstone, in which he covered the president’s burial by interviewing the gravedigger at Arlington. Still great after 50 years. And on the same day, Nov. 25, 1963, under very different circumstances, Oswald was buried. Ex-AP writer Mike Cochran’s recollection of covering that service, and being conscripted as a pallbearer, is powerful. Even the minister didn’t show up.

4. DILBERT ON DEATH AND DYING: Dilbert creator Scott Adams is a prolific blogger as well as popular cartoonist and his post the other day – as his aged father lay dying – railing against opponents of assisted-suicide was an emotional smack in the face. “If you’re a politician who has ever voted against doctor-assisted suicide, or you would vote against it in the future, I hate your f—ing guts and I would like you to die a long, horrible death.” At Real Clear Religion, Debra Saunders didn’t just blast Adams for views she abhors – she called him up, and they had an actual conversation. Check it out. And check out Cathy Grossman’s reports last week on the latest polling on this tough topic.

5. MORMON WORK ZONE—NO SMOKING, SWEARING OR COFFEE: The construction site at a new Mormon temple in Philadelphia has interesting rules: bans on coffee, smoking and swearing. “The reason is because it’s holy ground,” Steffanie Anderson, assistant regional director of LDS public affairs, told “We dedicated it a couple years ago.” I just wish they’d do something about the plumber’s smile, but that’s me.

6. CATHOLIC SCHOOL WELCOMES MUSLIM STUDENTS: Interesting story about the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Sounds like an education for all sides as Muslims students enroll in ever greater numbers. Growing up in Mecca, the capital of Saudi Arabia and heart of the Muslim world, Afnan Alowayyid, a business communication major, tells the Star-Tribune she was never “exposed to any other religion before.”

7. ANTI-SEMITISM DRIVING JEWS FROM EUROPE? Again? The Forward notes that Jews in Europe wish they had the problems of Jews in America. “Across Europe, 66 percent of Jewish people see anti-Semitism as a problem in their respective countries today — as high as 90 percent in Hungary and 85 percent in France. The perception, moreover, is that over the past five years, the level of anti-Semitism has increased, with 76 percent of respondents saying it had gone up a lot or a little.”

8. THE BUDDHA IS REALLY, REALLY OLD: He may have been born three centuries earlier than previously thought, according to the latest excavations in Nepal. As long as it doesn’t affect the Christmas shopping season, Americans are okay with that.

9. PROSELYTIZING THROUGH MARRIAGE? Emily Yoffie can attract some interesting queries in her “Dear Prudence” column, but from the Roundup’s POV this one may take the (wedding) cake: It’s about a guy who dated a woman for three years, married her, and then six months later discovers “she has extremely right-wing, religious views.” “Now,” he writes, “instead of our not wanting any kids, she wants at least five and maybe more. Instead of no religion, she wants strict adherence to her religion. I feel I’ve been duped and that she’s lied to me about herself. Is there any way out of this short of divorce?” Emily cites Henry VIII – on annulment, not dispatching spouses.


David Gibson

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