Pastor incorporates Islam into his Lenten practices; is threatened with defrocking

Rev. Steve Lawler tried positive Lent, but was coerced into the more traditional  giving something up–his decision to incorporate Islamic practices into his Lenten experience.

Rev. Lawler, who adopted Islamic prayer rituals, Qu’ranic study, and dietary restrictions did so for spiritual education  and edification.

“I could have sat down and read scholarly literature on Islam, but that’s still stepping back from it rather than encountering it…You can think about doing something, but once you do it, you really reflect on it,” Rev. Lawler said to The Saint Louis Post Dispatch.

He cited the concept of “passing over”, which is commonly attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. Passing over is experiencing and empathizing with another religion to gain fresh insights into your current religious practice.

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Ethics in cause-related marketing

*cross-posted from my other blog,

You’ve seen this, haven’t you?

That’s Abortion, the website for Life Always, says it uses “advertising, research and confrontational truth to gain awareness, inform and educate individuals to choose life, always!”

Confrontational, indeed. The public discourse surrounding this ad has been as well.

Some activists group, including Life Always, do allege that abortion is a genocidal practice perpetuated against African-Americans. This ad reflects that sensibility.

At Sociological Images, Lisa Wade, Ph.D points out that abortion is often framed as feminist, gendered issue, rather than one influenced by class and race.

Pointing out that the head of Life Always is “black, so it isn’t racist” is a reductio ad absurdum akin to “Some of my best friends are Jewish” as an excuse to legitimize anti-Semitic remarks a la Gentlemen’s Agreement.

Pointing out that the leadership of Life Always are clergymen is telling. How appropriate is it for clergy to make racially inflammatory statements intended to sow discord? This is far from Dr. King’s civil rights activism, which united concerned Americans for the cause.

It is disingenuous for religious leaders to present this complex issue as a purely sociological one in their advertising. The website does explain the religious connection and the bait-and-switch is not on the level of “crisis pregnancy centers,” but does merit concern.

The Life Always website does not make many concessions to socioeconomic factors, saying the Planned Parenthood centers are usually in minority neighborhoods and framing this as antagonistic. Is it also a function of zoning, real estate, and serving communities with less access to other medical services?

How influenced are these Guttmacher Institute statistics by socioeconomic factors, including access to contraceptives, family planning counseling, insurance, and ability to to care for and support a child?

A complex issue needs more context than a headline.

You will never believe there is an app for that

The act of confession contains two parts, confession and absolution, but many dimensions. A Catholic confesses to the priest, in the role of intercessor, who determines the suitable absolution. The app won’t absolve you…but that minor restraint in the app’s development doesn’t justify its existence.

The app is supposed to bring people back to the faith–and even boasts an imprimatur— but this mission misses out on some key themes that keep religion relevant in the modern era.

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Jewish and Muslim Human Rights: Intersections in pro-Palestine advocacy

I’m also published on MaristMy575, my journalism class’s news site. My first article, Jewish and Muslim human rights activists speak on the professional and personal dynamics of pro-Palestine advocacy, is up.

Romania expands labor code to tax witches, astrologers, and fortune-tellers

Romania, a prime exporter of superstition and occult mythology, has recently announced that the professions of astrologer, witch, and fortune teller– as well as driving instructor,embalmer, and valet–will now be included in the labor code. Before this loophole was closed, people with these occupations had avoided paying taxes because of this omission.

Bratara Buzea is one of the witches threatening the government with a curse

Predictably, some are unhappy about this. One protest has included tossing mandrakes–a poisonous plant long associated with witchcraft and ritual practice, due to hallucinogenic properties–into the Danube River, in order to curse the government.

“What is there to tax, when we hardly earn anything?” [Alisia] said, identifying herself with only one name as many Romanian witches do.

Although the government’s move is motivated by financial strain rather than professional egalitarianism, others feel affirmed by the government’s recognition of their offbeat profession.

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ISNA’s personal ads contain unnecessary skin color distinctions

In additions to excellent resources, interfaith encouragment, and conferences I  would love to attend, the Islamic Society of North America also offers a matrimonial ads service.

Cultural norm though it may be, perhaps the ISNA  should  introduce standards for its personals ads sections, Seeking Husbands and Seeking Wives, about the oft-stated preference for fair skin color, lest they appear to condone this practice.

A Muslim writer for Ms. Magazine’s blog calls it what it is…racism, despite the fact that most people associate racism with inter-group/personal contexts, rather than intra-group or intra-personal contexts. She also points out that few women place ads for themselves, except for a few outliers…and this excellent example:

From Sociological Images


Gay-affirming, diverse religious communities in the American South? Yes.

This New York Times article, Parenting by Gays More Common in the South, Census Shows, offers a nuanced look at the census–and perceptions of religious institutions.

In 1980’s Jacksonville, Florida, a church was bombed 3 times because it was known to be welcoming to the area’s gay population. The NYT articles counts 8 churches that openly welcome gay members, one of which is known to be very supporting to couples with children.

One would hope for a higher count of gay-friendly churches in Jacksonville–and any other area, for that matter. The article takes the tone of surprise–and unfortunately, realism, when addressing the unlikely locale for a vibrant and racially diverse gay community–the American South.

But wait..there’s more!  Gay-affirming as a litmus test for gay and straight parishioners, Lars and the Real Girl, Apologetix…after the jump.

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