December 21 is the Winter Solstice, seen by many worldwide -- including people watching the sun at Stonehenge in England, as a spiritual event.

Hillsong * Stonehenge * St. Pat's Redux: Wednesday's Roundup

800px-StonehengeSunrise1980sThe big religion news, of course, is that the rollout of a new Apple product, the Apple Watch, and new versions of the iPhone, prove once again that the computer giant is actually leading a cult. I confess, I am a member. But the watch? I feel a dissent coming on. "Here I stand..."

And in other news:

Aussie Pentecostals take L.A.

Check out Michael Paulson's NYT feature on Hillsong, "a musical powerhouse first and a church second" that is packing in young people in those allegedly faithless big cities around the world.

There's no app for that.

Stonehenge is not alone

And it's not just because crowds of New Age devotees sometimes like to commune with the huge mystery stones at dawn. It's because an extensive survey using ground-penetating radar has turned up at least 17 other Neolithic "shrines" around it:

"It's part of a much more complex landscape with processional and ritual activities that go around it," British project leader Vincent Gaffney, an archaeologist at the University of Birmingham, told Live Science. "That's very different from how this has been viewed before. The important point is Stonehenge is not alone. There was lots of other associated ritual activity going on around it."

Gaffney still isn't sure what the rituals were about. The more things change, eh?

The SBC should not be the NFL

Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore says domestic violence against women is not just a matter of social justice but also "ecclesial justice":

“A man who hits you has surrendered his headship, and that is the business both of the civil state in enacting public justice and of this church in enacting church discipline.

"The divide over ordaining women"

David Masci at Pew has your cool Graphic of the Day, and this interesting context:

"While many major religious denominations in the United States now allow women to pastor churches and synagogues, only 11 percent of American congregations were led by women in 2012, according to press reports of an upcoming National Congregations Study survey. That figure hasn’t changed since 1998."

Cardinal George to meet gay church musician fired for marrying

Nice that Chicago's archbishop is meeting with Colin Collette, who was sacked after it was revealed he was engaged to marry his partner. But not sure he'll get much traction with George, who said:

“[I]t was his decision, that occasioned, that caused this crisis, so I want to hear what he has to say,” said George. “He’s the one who made the decision that makes (getting his job back) impossible, so we’ll have to talk about that.”

Cardinal Dolan still slammed over backing gays in St. Pat's parade

We detailed some of the blowback against New York's archbishop for welcoming the policy change that will allow gay groups to march. But wow, it's getting ugly out there. I mean, even a Virginia statehouse delegate is writing to the pope's U.S. ambassador telling him that Dolan is making his job tougher. Other critiques here and here and here and here.

Enter Kathryn Jean Lopez, writing at the National Review, and arguing that, like Pope Francis, Cardinal Dolan may be exercising some "pastoral wisdom."

Interesting, but no, that likely won't be the last word.

Speaking of Francis ...

Your Pope Tweet of the Day

In other Vatican news ...

John Allen reports on the two American priests Francis has appointed to key posts on sex abuse reform. Pope Francis will visit Turkey, and maybe Iraq, in November. And the Vatican unveiled its list of participants for next week's big Vatican meeting on the church and family life -- and the Rev. Tom Reese is underwhelmed: They are mostly Curia officials and church types who don't really bring the perspectives of actual Catholics living real lives in difficult circumstances:

"Most of the collaborators and auditors were chosen on the recommendation of episcopal conferences, and this is the fundamental contradiction of Francis' papacy. He wants to change things, but he also wants to defer to local bishops on many things."

"There is also some irony here. In the decades following Vatican II, Catholic progressives constantly called for decentralization in the church. Now that they like what the pope is doing, they want him to do things by executive order. Meanwhile, conservatives are beginning to see the advantages of subsidiarity in the church. God does have a sense of humor."

Topless women in Virgin's church

Headline of the Day:

"9 topless activists cleared in Notre Dame protest"

The Best of the Rest from RNS:

Finally: Have you taken the Crux pilgrimage quiz?

I'd wind up in the Holy Land, it says. What would have happened if I'd picked J-Lo as my favorite musician instead of Pavarotti? Anyway, check it out here. If you wind up in Stonehenge, you won't be alone. If you wind up in Disney World, you're doing it wrong.

Safe journey, wherever you are headed.

David Gibson