Culture Religion News Roundup

Maya Angelou * WWJSpeak? * Sustainable schmaltz: Wednesday’s Roundup

Maya Angelou, who died in North Carolina at 86.
Maya Angelou, who died in North Carolina at 86.

Photo via the official Maya Angelou website

Maya Angelou, who died in North Carolina at 86.

The remarkable poet and novelist and so many other things has died.

  • Aramaic or Hebrew? Or both?
  • Artisanal gefilte fish?
  • Snake handling pastor bitten.
  • Priests’ wives speak out.

And more…

Maya Angelou, RIP

She has passed, at the age of 86.

What Would Jesus Speak?

The answer to that question, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu indicated in meeting Pope Francis, was Hebrew.  “Aramaic,” the pontiff corrected him, with a smile. “He spoke Aramaic, but he knew Hebrew,” Netanyahu returned. Give this one to the PM on points. Scholars tell the BBC Magazine that Jesus probably spoke Aramaic in everyday language, but used Hebrew for more scholarly (i.e. religious) discussions. He probably knew a bit of Greek, but — sorry Trads — only a few words of Latin.

What Should Jews Eat?

How about: “Artisanal gefilte fish. Slow-fermented bagels. Organic chopped liver. Sustainable schmaltz.” No, as the NYT’s Julia Moskin notes, those aren’t punch lines to new Jewish jokes. It’s the latest food craze to hit New York. Of course. Vintage blintzes, anyone?

Can we feed the hungry?

Sure, food trucks for yuppies are cool, but feed the hungry people on the street? Apparently not so much. Some 33 cities have adopted or are considering such food–sharing restrictions to block individuals and ministries from feeding the needing, the National Coalition for the Homeless tells NBC.

Twice bitten, not shy

Kentucky snake-handling pastor Jamie Coots died in February after he was bitten by one of the poisonous snakes he used at services at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro, and now his son Cody, who took his place, has been bitten too. Cody, 21, is expected to recover though the family says he is not seeking medical attention, as per their beliefs.

An atheist apocalypse?

It will come via demographics, says a UK geneticist, who argues that the population bust in secularized countries and the population boom in very religious societies spells doom for unbelievers like himself. “It’s clearly the case that the future will involve an increase in religious populations and a decrease in scepticism,” says Steve Jones. “We may not need more scientists but more theologists.” Theologists? Anyway, what I want to know is if this is good for religion reporters…

Where did the Religious Right come from?

Randall Balmer argues in Politico mag that it wasn’t born in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, as popular mythology has it. Rather, it was initially a response to racial integration in schools. Later it became about abortion, and gay marriage, and well, you know the litany.

So you want married priests?

But would you want to marry one? Pope Francis this week reiterated that optional celibacy for Roman Catholic clergy could be up for discussion. But wives of Catholic priests in rites where the practice is already allowed say it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Deacon Greg Kandra (yes, Catholic deacons are ordained but can marry, and their wives don’t seem to be complaining — yet) rounds up some spousal reactions, e. g.: “People will accuse you of being in the way of your husband’s priesthood.”

Have we passed peak Dolan?

ICYMI, the NYT’s Sharon Otterman wondered whether Cardinal Timothy Dolan, once the media focus of US Catholicism, has been eclipsed by the popular new pope and a new set of church leaders in America. Maybe, but is anyone as quick with a one-liner on deadline?

More evidence of “the Francis Effect”?

The incoming Archbishop of Newark, Bernard Hebda, indicated that the current archbishop, John Myers, who has been under fire for constructing a lavish retirement home for himself, does deserve scrutiny for his choices. “Clearly, all of us have to hear what the Holy Father is saying – that’s not just for priests and bishops, either. It’s for all of us … We have to find those ways of being really faithful to the Gospel and figuring out what it is that we need. Not always what we want, but what it is that we need.”

Meanwhile, Catholics in Bridgeport, Connecticut, are really happy about their new leader, Bishop Frank Caggiano, who seems rather Francis-like. And he originally hails from — yes of course — Brooklyn. “A breath of fresh air,” Paul Lakeland of Fairfield University calls him. Which is not the usual phrase you associate from things from Brooklyn.

The Venerable Sully

Andrew Sullivan, blogger in all things, tells Washingtonian mag that he’s working on a book about religion, and it is connected to his longtime yearning for a monastic life. “There comes a point where you just don’t want to think about the world,” he says. “You just want to curl up in a ball and live.”

What is the blog version of scriptorium?

David Gibson

About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.


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  • It’s nice to see that Abp. “Myers has only two rooms he can call his own and they are in a ZIP code that few would consider enviable” Hebda has had a change of heart.

    Also, RIP, Maya Angelou.

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