Culture Religion News Roundup

Brewer’s veto * Texas’ ban * Dark Horse: Thursday’s Roundup

A red pencil and the word "NO."
Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona vetoed a religious exemption bill.

10 things to know on this last Thursday in February:

A red pencil and the word "NO."

courtesy Shutterstock

Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona vetoed a religious exemption bill.

1. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced she had vetoed a bill that would allow business and individuals to refuse service to gays, capping a week of escalating furor over the legislation. E.J. Dionne says religious conservatives should be grateful: “Using conscience exemptions to facilitate backdoor resistance to social change takes something precious and turns it into a cheap political tactic.”

2. A judge struck down Texas’ gay marriage ban, proving, yet again, that attitudes toward gay marriage are changing faster than the speed of light. (OK, mild exaggeration.)

3. Evangelicals have rented movie theaters by the dozen for tonight’s premiere of “Son of God,” by reality TV producer Mark Burnett (“Survivor”) and his wife, actress Roma Downey (“Touched by an Angel”). In Charlotte, N.C., to take one example, Christian groups and businesses have rented a total of 27 movie screens for private sold-out showings.

4. A federal appeals court ordered YouTube on Wednesday to take down an anti-Muslim film that sparked violence in many parts of the Middle East. Yup, we’re talking that insipid 14-minute flick, “Innocence of Muslims,” which depicts Muhammad as a religious fraud, pedophile and womanizer.

5. But you may hear more about the new Katy Perry YouTube clip, “Dark Horse.” Nearly 60,000 people have signed a petition demanding that YouTube take it down because it offends Muslims. Our blogger Omid Safi had this succinct response: “What…ever.”

6. As masked men with guns seized government buildings in the capital of Ukraine’s Crimea region, barricading themselves inside and raising the Russian flag, the United States warned Russia it would be a “grave mistake” to intervene militarily in the Ukraine. Meanwhile, intense interest grows about interim President Oleksandr Turchynov, a Baptist minister. Check out this story about whether his Baptist faith might help diffuse the crisis there.

7. Hezbollah is taking the lead in many battles in Syria, fighting alongside dictator Bashar Assad’s government forces. Of course, Hezbollah is a Shi’a Islamic militant group, which means the tenor of the civil war is shaping into an all out Sunni-Shia conflict.

8. The rabbinic councils of all three Orthodox parties in Israel issued a statement prohibiting their yeshiva students from enlisting in the Israeli military. They want young men to study Torah day and night.

9. As evangelicals begin to fashion a more sophisticated response to the reality of mental illness, one South Carolina pastor has come out and acknowledged he uses anti-depressants.

10. Last but not least, good reads (for those who want to go deeper):

  • Lauren Markoe writes about the PJ Library, which has mailed 10 million children’s books about Judaism to families across the world. The program, which is free, appears to be achieving its aim of reinforcing Jewish values at home. Six in 10 families said the books they were mailed “increased their families’ positive feelings about being Jewish.”
  • Elizabeth Drescher explains the Dalai Lama’s appeal. The Tibetan Buddhist leader is on a two-week U.S. tour and his schedule is chock full of talks on the themes of happiness, fulfillment, and compassion, key nodes of Buddhist thought.
  • Finally, in a fascinating Q&A, eminent sociologist of religion Peter Berger talks about the decline of the “secularization theory” which posited that modernity inevitably produces a decline of religion. Berger rejects that theory.

I came to the conclusion some years ago that to replace secularization theory—to explain religion in the modern world—we need the theory of pluralism. Modernity does not necessarily produce secularity. It necessarily produces pluralism, by which I mean the coexistence in the same society of different worldviews and value systems.

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About the author

Yonat Shimron

Yonat Shimron is an RNS National Reporter and Senior Editor.


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  • Let’s be careful here: “the tenor of the civil war is shaping into an all out Sunni-Shia conflict.”