David Brooks outlines recovery from secularism for Atlantic readers
"It's now clear that the secularization theory is untrue," David Brooks writes in a must-read piece for The Atlantic Monthly.
The human race does not necessarily get less religious as it grows richer and better educated. We are living through one of the great periods of scientific progress and the creation of wealth. At the same time, we are in the midst of a religious boom. … Moreover, it is the denominations that refuse to adapt to secularism that are growing the fastest, while those that try to be "modern" and "relevant" are withering. … Secularism is not the future; it is yesterday's incorrect vision of the future. This realization sends us recovering secularists to the bookstore or the library in a desperate attempt to figure out what is going on in the world.
With this in mind, Brooks outlines a six-step recovery process for secularists (apparently it's easier to recover from secularism than from alcoholism. Secularists don't do well with the whole "coming to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity" part anyway.)
First, Brooks writes, "You have to accept the fact that you are not the norm." Rather than researchers and academics trying to figure out why folks are so religious, "religious groups should be sending out researchers to try to understand why there are pockets of people in the world who do not feel the constant presence of God in their lives, who do not fill their days with rituals and prayers and garments that bring them into contact with the divine, and who do not believe that God's will should shape their public lives."
Step two is confronting fear—the fear of rampant religious conflict. It's a truly possible scenario, he says. Step three is getting angry (at secular fundamentalists).
Fourth, recovering secularists must "resist the impulse to find a materialistic explanation for everything." It's on this point that Brooks really hits his stride. "Human beings yearn for righteous rule, for a just world or a world that reflects God's will—in many cases at least as strongly as they yearn for money or success," he writes. "Thinking about that yearning means moving away from scientific analysis and into the realm of moral judgment. The crucial question is not What incentives does this yearning respond to? but Do individuals pursue a moral vision of righteous rule? And do they do so in virtuous ways, or are they, like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, evil in their vision and methods?"
He continues this theme in step five: "the recovering secularist must acknowledge that he has been too easy on religion." It's no longer acceptable just to think of "religion," as secularists usually do, blending, merging, and confusing beliefs. It's not just patronizing, Brooks says. It's dangerous. "One has to try to separate right from wrong," he says.
The sixth step is Brooks's weakest: "Understand that this country was never very secular anyway." But that's not the same as saying we're similarly dogmatic, he says. America's sense of transcendent mission is not a theological one. "We are inescapably caught in a world of conflicting visions of historical destiny," he concludes. "This is not the same as saying that we are caught in a world of conflicting religions."
Pope speaks on sticks and stones
Speaking of secularism, here's an interesting quote from Pope John Paul II yesterday: "We know that the persecutor does not always assume the violent and macabre countenance of the oppressor, but often is pleased to isolate the righteous with mockery and irony." He was preaching on the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace.
Methodist panel clears bishop of heresy charges. Again.
C. Joseph Sprague doesn't believe in the virgin birth, the divinity of Christ, or the resurrection. But according to a panel of United Methodist bishops, he's not a heretic. In fact, he's one of their fellow bishops.
"It became apparent … in our review of this case, that Bishop Sprague knows Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior, has faith in Christ's savings, and transforming power and is obedient to Christ's teachings," the panel said.
What's more, the panel attacked the 28 clergy and lay Methodists who brought the complaint against Sprague. "It is the humble, but considered, opinion of the supervisory response team that the real threat may well be our arrogance and parochial attitudes," the panel said. "Let us cast out our penchant to power and control."
"What is dysfunctional is that we even have to make complaints," Thomas Lambrecht, a Methodist pastor in Greenville, Wisconsin, who brought the charges, told The Washington Times. To the Chicago Tribune, he said the problem lies with the church leadership. "If you ask clergy, especially at the upper levels, I think you'd find about 40 percent subscribe to Sprague's approach and 20 percent support our view. With the folks in the pews, my guess is the proportions are just the reverse."
It's the fourth time Sprague has been tried and acquitted in the church on heresy charges. The Institute on Religion and Democracy's United Methodist Action group has much more on the controversy from a more orthodox perspective. The United Methodist News Service also has a lengthy report that will be of particular interest to Methodists.
- Pastor aided Rwanda genocide (BBC | audio)
- Pastor, son guilty in Rwandan genocide | The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda returned unanimous verdicts against Dr. Gerard Ntakirutimana, 45, and Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, 78 (UPI)
- Also: Rwanda pastor and son, a doctor, convicted of genocide | With Wednesday's verdict, Rev. Elizaphan Ntakirutimana became the first clergyman to be convicted of genocide by an international tribunal (The New York Times)
Christians split on war in Iraq:
- Many moderate churches take up anti-war cause | Ministers identify perils in conflict (Chicago Tribune)
- Antiwar movement awakens over Iraq | European leaders convened an emergency summit on Iraq Monday evening, their divisions over the need for war thrown into stark relief by the unity of their electorates' hostility to the prospect. (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Possible Iraq war polarizes faiths | Church members don't always back leaders' positions, however (The Post-Standard, Sycracuse, NY)
- Pray for peace, back troops, church says | "It's not a pro-war demonstration," said Cheryl Morrison, "It's a 'We're standing with America' demonstration." (Jean Torkelson, Rocky Mountain News, Denver)
- U.S. churches seek peaceful Iraq strategy | US church leaders are to ask Prime Minister Tony Blair to work for the non-violent replacement of President Saddam Hussein (BBC)
- Clergy call for building of peace movement | Some Los Angeles religious leaders meet to set an agenda that includes nuclear disarmament and human rights (Los Angeles Times)
- Many moderate churches take up anti-war cause | Ministers identify perils in conflict (Chicago Tribune)
- "A moral justification for war exists" | U.S. envoy James Nicholson has an uphill battle to persuade the Pope of the case to overthrow Saddam (Time Europe)
- Ethicist argues Bush has moral case for Iraq war | "Not going to war can be a tragedy, just as going to war can be a tragedy," says Jean Bethke Elshtain (Religion News Service)
- President is ignoring peoples of faith in this audacious walk to war | Despite having made faith-based initiatives a key component to his domestic policy and being the most overtly religious president in over 20 years, Bush appears deaf to the multiplying voices of wisdom within the Christian community (Robert Parham, The Tennessean)
- 'We need a global police force' |Reverend Tom Wright, the Canon of Westminster, discusses the church's opposition to a war with Iraq on 'moral' grounds (ITV, U.K.)
- The religious left's moment | Liberal and mainstream religious groups are becoming an increasingly visible and vital part of the antiwar movement (Rebecca Phillips, Beliefnet)
- Pakistani church leaders want more security amid prospect of U.S. attack on Iraq | "We fear Christians will be vulnerable to terrorist attacks by extremists who think we are part of the United States and Western nations because we are Christian," Pastor Irshad John of the Protestant St. Thomas Church in the capital, Islamabad, said in an interview Thursday (Associated Press)
- Archbishops doubt morality of Iraq war | The leaders of the UK's Catholic and Anglican churches have cast doubt on the moral case for launching military action against Iraq (BBC | video)
- Also: Archbishops confront Blair over Iraq war (The Times, London)
- Also: Archbishops' statement in full (via The Times)
Reflection on war and faith:
- Fear grips America, Episcopal leader says | Among the growing number of religious voices opposing military action in Iraq, Bishop Frank Griswold's has been one of the loudest (The Chicago Sun-Times)
- 'The Almighty has his own purposes' | In times of war, whose side is God on? (Mark A. Noll, Beliefnet, excerpt from America's God)
- Are we on a righteous path to violent co-annihilation? | Judging from all the polls that show strong support for an invasion, it's apparent that regardless of what our religious leaders say, for most Christians, Jesus' rejection of the "eye for an eye" ethic is simply viewed as weak and impractical (Rich Aronson, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)
- Civilian casualties & turmoil | Lay responsibility in a just war (Michael Novak, National Review Online)
- Will it be a 'just war' or just a war? | Centuries-old guidelines can help societies curb the savagery of mass conflict (Jean Bethke Elshtain, Los Angeles Times)
- War debate highlights doubts on influence of churches | As the United States contemplates going to war with Iraq, many church leaders are speaking out against military action. But some who believe war may be necessary say the church's influence over the American public is declining (Morning Edition, NPR)
- The blinding glare of his certainty | How Bush's faith shapes his approach to Iraq (Joe Klein, Time)
- Rift with Europe runs deep | A gap in religious beliefs hurts Europeans in understanding U.S. rhetoric about war. (The Los Angeles Times)
Pope speaks about war, meets with Iraq:
- Vatican warns against unilateral action | The Vatican has been a vocal opponent of any war against Iraq, saying there is no moral justification for a pre-emptive strike (Associated Press)
- Pope holds meeting with Iraqi minister | Urged the government of Saddam Hussein to commit fully to UN weapons inspections to avert a US-led attack. (The Boston Globe)
- Also: Saddam's loyal 'Christian' | Is Tariq Aziz actually a Christian? It's a matter of interpretation. (Uwe Siemon-Netto, UPI)
- Pope concerned war could spark religious strife | "Neither the threat of war nor war itself should be allowed to alienate Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and members of other religions," he said (Reuters)
- Saddam to papal envoy: Iraq targeted because Muslim | Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, a Frenchman who has carried out numerous delicate papal missions before, met the Iraqi leader for 90 minutes in Baghdad and delivered a letter from the Holy See focusing on finding a peaceful solution to the Iraqi crisis (Reuters)
- 'Pope must tackle religious bias' | President Saddam Hussein of Iraq has urged Pope John Paul II to address the "racial and religious discrimination" which has made his country a target of possible military action, state television reported (BBC)
Pope will meet with Tony Blair:
- Blair to have private audience with Pope | Although Downing Street would not confirm the details of the audience, the prime minister's chances of convincing the world's most infallible religious leader that he is wrong on the looming conflict must be slim (The Guardian, London)
- Prime Minister joins papal queue (The Times, London)
- 'Holy Father understands war as a last resort' | "The meeting will be a serious one, but not an awkward one," says George Weigel (The Daily Telegraph, London)
- Blair to have private audience with Pope | Blair yesterday met with Jim Wallis and other American Christians (The Guardian, London)
Texas church bus accident:
- NTSB, public safety officials investigate deadly bus crash | Family, friends of victims grieve in Temple (The Waco [Tex.] Tribune-Herald)
- Seven killed as a church bus overturns in Texas (The New York Times)
- Bus crash victims continue to improve at area hospitals (The Waco [Tex.] Tribune-Herald)
- Fetus or baby? | The Globe was technically correct when it referred to the youngest shooting victim in the Feb. 5 MBTA Orange Line tragedy as a ''fetus.'' But sometimes you can be technically correct and wrong at the same time. This was one of those times. (Christine Chinlund, The Boston Globe)
- If Roe v. Wade is overruled, what arguments should abortion rights supporters use? | those who support abortion rights must be prepared to argue, even if fetuses are accorded the legal status of persons, that women should still retain the right to choose an abortion (Alec Walen, FindLaw.com)
- Nicaragua mulls abortion for 9-year-old | The girl's parents said she was raped in Costa Rica (Associated Press)
- Also: Parents seek abortion for 9-year-old | A government medical board in Nicaragua is considering whether a pregnant nine-year-old girl can safely carry the baby to term, the girl's lawyer said yesterday (Associated Press)
- Also: Nicaragua child rape suspect held (BBC)
Church and state:
- Group asks Las Cruces, N.M., to stop using cross logo | Americans United for Separation of Church and State says symbol featuring three crosses unconstitutionally endorses religion, but officials say logo reflects town's name, history (Associated Press)
- Freedom of religion, not from religion | (Maggie Bowden, The Cavalier Daily, University of Virginia)
- KSUT yanks ad with 'God' in it | Public radio wouldn't allow dentist's tag, "Gently Restoring the Health God Created." (The Durango [Colo.] Herald)
- God bless free speech | Maybe you've been brainwashed too (Joshua Sterns, The Post, Ohio University)
Politics and law:
- Pope: Christian roots in future EU Constitution | Speaking before the prayer of the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Wojtyla said that the inclusion of Christian roots will not run counter to the secular nature of political structures (EU Observer)
- Praying to angry Gods | America is not the only country where religion plays a role in politics. In India, too, the link has dangerous implications (Newsweek International)
- True believer stands alone | Paul Jakes sure he'll be mayor; few on bandwagon (Chicago Tribune)
- Biblical animals return to the Holy Land | In 1969, the Israeli Nature Reserves Authority initiated a program to reestablish animal species into the areas where they once lived (CBN News)
- Christians close ranks in Palestinian uprising | According to Palestinian security sources, only around a dozen Christians serve in the militant al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades—reflecting, in relative terms, a reluctance on the part of the community to take up arms (Reuters)
- Palestinians fear being trapped by Israeli wall | According to the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel must build the wall through the northern outskirts of Bethlehem to protect Jewish worshipers at the shrine they revere as the Tomb of Rachel, wife of the biblical patriarch Jacob (The New York Times)
- Also: Palestinians protest Israeli wall plan (Associated Press)
- Also: Israel to split Christ's birthplace with barrier | A senior Israeli army officer told Palestinians on Tuesday their neighborhood in the town where Christ was born would be divided by a wall to safeguard Jews coming to pray at biblical Rachel's Tomb (Reuters)
- Also: Fence to separate Rachel's Tomb from Bethlehem (The Jerusalem Post)
- Also: Israel annexes Bethlehem holy site, PNA outraged (Palestine Chronicle
Missions and ministry:
- Extreme ministry | Youth programs become more elaborate (Tallahassee [Fla.] Democrat)
- Honoring Bonnie's mission | The message was clear: Bonnie Witherall is more alive than ever (The Oregonian, Portland)
- Missionary to share story of husband's kidnapping | Nancy Mankins was teaching the Bible and building a church community in Pucuro, Panama, when Colombian guerrillas swept through the village and kidnapped her husband, Dave Mankins, and two other missionaries (South Bend [Ind.] Tribune)
- 'Prayer Warriors' offer time for prayer and fellowship | Pray for the City is an informal, interdenominational event that will be held daily until at least Easter (Bonita [Fla.] Banner)
- The music of redemption | Willie G. preaches anti-drug message from pulpit of experience (Whittier [Calif.] Daily News)
- Religion is a driving force for some political servants | Wilberforce felt inspired to fight slavery (The Toledo Blade)
- Street preachers clog busy intersection in DeLand | The business of evangelism sometimes collides with those who are just trying to do business on downtown streets (The Daytona Beach [Fla.] News-Journal)
- Woman saves historic church her grandfather once led | Ringed by gleaming steel and glass towers, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church stands as a survivor from Houston's past in the shadows of its present (Houston Chronicle)
- Lights, camera, worship | High-tech wizardry is as expected at these churches as pipe organs are at others (The Dallas Morning News)
- Saving bodies & souls | Black churches still play central role in the community (Newsday)
- Church's outreach includes tax assistance | "This is an extension of the mission of Christ, which is to address the bondage of sin and the bondage of society," says pastor (The Clarksdale [Miss.] Press Register)
- Church to take donations on charge cards | Card reader installed in Swedish village's church (Associated Press)
Clergy sex abuse:
- Priest turned himself in for abuse | He was then assigned to work with kids for 18 more years (Associated Press)
- A window on reform | The Catholic lay group Voice of the Faithful, now one year old, is refining its message of change amid sharp controversy over its role (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Bishop is press pawn | The Catholic church is retaliating over what it sees as a campaign of persecution by the media (The Guardian, London)
- Archdiocese says priest should pay | The Archdiocese of San Antonio wants a jury in a sexual abuse lawsuit to assess any damages against the offending priest, not the archdiocese (San Antonio Express-News)
- Lennon's rise: from shy schoolboy to the chancery | Richie Lennon's stutter was so bad that he rarely spoke in class, never raised his hand, always lived in fear of the humiliating silence and stares as he groped for words (The Boston Globe)
- Tough times, tenacious readers | Fewer and bigger books seem to be the order of the day for many religion publishers (Publishers Weekly)
- Spring/Summer religion books | What's coming up (Publishers Weekly)
- Sluggish market means smaller CBA Expo | "Proliferation of product availability" a continuing challenge for Christian retailers (Publishers Weekly)
- Author feels Americans ill-equipped to face suffering | Nancy Guthrie's small, unpretentious book has provoked intense reader responses (Associated Press)
- Calvin goes to college | J. David Hoeveler's dense, fascinating Creating the American Mind is subtitled "Intellect and Politics in the Colonial Colleges," but it is religion that plays the largest role (The Wall Street Journal)
- The road to rapture | I just finished reading Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Spiritual Life, by Lauren F. Winner, and there is something electrifying about it (The Jewish Week)
- A scientist searches for mysticism | A review of Rational Mysticism: Dispatches From the Border Between Science and Spirituality (Los Angeles Times)
Radio Free Europe on "Fundamentalism":
- Fundamentalism, when love and compassion clash with conviction (Radio Free Europe)
- The roots of Christian fundamentalism | Among Christians, the word "fundamentalist" originally referred to members of a Christian religious movement that developed in the United States (Radio Free Europe)
- From one perspective, all Muslims are fundamentalists | The term fundamentalism has been adopted—often unfairly—in parts of the Muslim world and in the West alike to describe Islamic extremism, radicalism, and terrorism. (Radio Free Europe)
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