Pat Robertson cares more about money than murder

Vox reports:

A major evangelical leader has spoken in defense of US-Saudi relations after the apparent killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate, saying that America has more important things — like arms deals — to focus on.

Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, appeared on its flagship television show The 700 Club on Monday to caution Americans against allowing the United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia to deteriorate over Khashoggi’s death.

“For those who are screaming blood for the Saudis — look, these people are key allies,” Robertson said. While he called the faith of the Wahabists — the hardline Islamist sect to which the Saudi Royal Family belongs — “obnoxious,” he urged viewers to remember that “we’ve got an arms deal that everybody wanted a piece of…it’ll be a lot of jobs, a lot of money come to our coffers. It’s not something you want to blow up willy-nilly.” [Continue reading…]

Tariq Ramadan: The rock star scholar and the rape claims

 

Evangelical leaders are frustrated at GOP caution on Kavanaugh allegation

The New York Times reports:

Worried their chance to cement a conservative majority on the Supreme Court could slip away, a growing number of evangelical and anti-abortion leaders are expressing frustration that Senate Republicans and the White House are not protecting Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh more forcefully from a sexual assault allegation and warning that conservative voters may stay home in November if his nomination falls apart.

Several of these leaders, including ones with close ties to the White House and Senate Republicans, are urging Republicans to move forward with a confirmation vote imminently unless the woman who accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexual assault, Christine Blasey Ford, agrees to share her story with the Senate Judiciary Committee within the next few days.

Dr. Blasey’s lawyers told the committee Thursday that she was willing to testify next week, pending negotiations over “terms that are fair,” but not on Monday as Senate Republicans had wanted.

The evangelical leaders’ pleas are, in part, an attempt to apply political pressure: Some of them are warning that religious conservatives may feel little motivation to vote in the midterm elections unless Senate Republicans move the nomination out of committee soon and do more to defend Judge Kavanaugh from what they say is a desperate Democratic ploy to prevent President Trump from filling future court vacancies. [Continue reading…]

#MeToo in the monastery: A Chinese abbot’s fall stirs questions on Buddhism’s path

The New York Times reports:

Over the past two decades, religion in China has boomed, and no faith has benefited more than Buddhism. The number of temples has tripled, monks and abbots have become well-known public figures, and China has used the faith to build ties around the world, sending out nuns and monks on good-will missions.

The person most closely associated with this revival is the Venerable Xuecheng, a charismatic monk who was fast-tracked for success. He became abbot of his first temple at 23 and head of the Communist Party-run Buddhist Association of China at 49.

His use of social media and emphasis on compassion attracted the sort of bright, white-collar professionals who once spurned traditional Chinese religions. Many rank him as the most important Chinese Buddhist reformer in a century.

But over the summer, all of these worldly successes vanished.

Accused of lewdness toward nuns and financial misconduct, Xuecheng, 52, has in recent weeks been stripped of his titles and banished to a small temple in his home province of Fujian. Government investigators now occupy the cleric’s main temple in Beijing, have purged his cadre of loyal monks and are scouring his books for financial wrongdoing. [Continue reading…]

China has placed hundreds of thousands of Muslims in cultural extermination camps

The New York Times reports:

On the edge of a desert in far western China, an imposing building sits behind a fence topped with barbed wire. Large red characters on the facade urge people to learn Chinese, study law and acquire job skills. Guards make clear that visitors are not welcome.

Inside, hundreds of ethnic Uighur Muslims spend their days in a high-pressure indoctrination program, where they are forced to listen to lectures, sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party and write “self-criticism” essays, according to detainees who have been released.

The goal is to remove any devotion to Islam.

Abdusalam Muhemet, 41, said the police detained him for reciting a verse of the Quran at a funeral. After two months in a nearby camp, he and more than 30 others were ordered to renounce their past lives. Mr. Muhemet said he went along but quietly seethed.

“That was not a place for getting rid of extremism,” he recalled. “That was a place that will breed vengeful feelings and erase Uighur identity.”

This camp outside Hotan, an ancient oasis town in the Taklamakan Desert, is one of hundreds that China has built in the past few years. It is part of a campaign of breathtaking scale and ferocity that has swept up hundreds of thousands of Chinese Muslims for weeks or months of what critics describe as brainwashing, usually without criminal charges.

Though limited to China’s western region of Xinjiang, it is the country’s most sweeping internment program since the Mao era — and the focus of a growing chorus of international criticism. [Continue reading…]

Conservative media move to front line of battle to undermine Pope Francis

Reuters reports:

Last March, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano dined on the outskirts of Rome at the home of a conservative Italian Catholic journalist. Over pasta, fish and white wine, the prelate poured out his concern for the future of the Roman Catholic Church.

It was the start of about five months of contacts and collaboration between Vigano and several conservative journalists and media outlets that would lead to one of the greatest crises for the Church in modern times.

In a bombshell statement published last weekend when Pope Francis was in Ireland, Vigano, the former Vatican ambassador to Washington, urged Francis to resign on the grounds he knew for years about the sexual misconduct of an American cardinal and did nothing.

The full extent of journalists’ involvement in the statement – from conception and editing to translation and publication – emerges from a series of Reuters interviews that reveal a union of conservative clergy and media aimed at what papal defenders say is a campaign to weaken the reformist Francis’s pontificate.

Since his election in 2013, conservatives have sharply criticized Francis, saying he has left many faithful confused by pronouncements that the Church should be more welcoming to homosexuals and divorced Catholics and not be obsessed by “culture war” issues such as abortion.

“The conservatives have declared war and they are convinced they can reform the Church with a frontal attack,” a senior Vatican prelate said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because “the line is silence” now. [Continue reading…]

Catholics call for mass resignation of U.S. bishops

Following the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on the sexual abuse of over 1,000 children by 301 priests, and following a similar scandal earlier this year in Chile that led to its Catholic bishops’ collective resignation, a statement by Catholic theologians, educators, parishioners, and lay leaders says:

After years of suppressed truth, the unreserved decisiveness of the Chilean bishops’ resignations communicated to the faithful a message that Catholics in the United States have yet to hear, with an urgency we have yet to witness: We have caused this devastation. We have allowed it to persist. We submit ourselves to judgment in recompense for what we have done and failed to do.

Some will feel that the resignation of all bishops is unjustified and even detrimental to the work of healing. After all, many bishops are indeed humble servants and well-intentioned pastors. This is an urge we recognize, but it is not one that we can accept. The catastrophic scale and historical magnitude of the abuse makes clear that this is not a case of “a few bad apples” but rather a radical systemic injustice manifested at every level of the Church. Systemic sin cannot be ended through individual goodwill. Its wounds are not healed through statements, internal investigations, or public relations campaigns but rather through collective accountability, transparency, and truth-telling. We are responsible for the house we live in, even if we did not build it ourselves. This is why we call on the U.S. Bishops to offer their resignations collectively, in recognition of the systemic nature of this evil. [Continue reading…]

Conservative religious leaders are denouncing Trump immigration policies

The New York Times reports:

Conservative religious leaders who have long preached about the sanctity of the family are now issuing sharp rebukes of the Trump administration for immigration policies that tear families apart or leave them in danger.

The criticism came after recent moves by the administration to separate children from their parents at the border, and to deny asylum on a routine basis to victims of domestic abuse and gang violence.

Some of the religious leaders are the same evangelicals and Roman Catholics who helped President Trump to build his base and who have otherwise applauded his moves to limit abortion and champion the rights of religious believers.

The Rev. Franklin Graham, a son of the famed evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham and an outspoken defender of President Trump, said in an interview on Tuesday on the Christian Broadcasting Network, “I think it’s disgraceful, it’s terrible to see families ripped apart and I don’t support that one bit.”

He quickly made it clear that this had not dimmed his enthusiasm for Mr. Trump, adding, “I blame the politicians for the last 20, 30 years that have allowed this to escalate to where it is today.”

Leaders of many faiths — including Jews, Mainline Protestants, Muslims and others — have spoken out consistently against the president’s immigration policies. What has changed is that now the objections are coming from faith groups that have been generally friendly to Mr. Trump. [Continue reading…]

Evangelical minister warns about dangerous alliance between American evangelicals and the Republican Party

Mother Jones reports:

The past four decades have seen an ever-tightening alliance between American evangelicals and the Republican Party, and few have played as pivotal a role in fostering that coupling as Reverend Rob Schenck. The evangelical minister from Buffalo, New York, gained national notoriety in the 1990s as a fervent anti-abortion activist who orchestrated shocking stunts to promote his cause, including one in which an aborted fetus was thrust in the face of then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton. His keen ability to advance religiously conservative causes brought him to the nation’s capital and the epicenter of politically conservative power circles. During the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, he boosted the right’s anti-abortion and anti-LBGT agenda, netting great success with the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act and Bush’s partial-birth abortion ban.

But today, Schenck is, in many respects, unrecognizable. He’s distanced himself from many of his fellow evangelical pastors and former political allies, leaving his anti-abortion work behind in favor of another pro-life cause, though one uncommon among American evangelicals: gun control.

Schenck attributes this transformation to his late-career doctorate in ministry—specifically, his research on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who questioned the symbiotic, and problematic, relationship that emerged between Adolf Hitler and 1930s German evangelical churches. Schenck began seeing parallels in the closeness between the American evangelical church and the Republican Party, and wondering if the religious institution to which he’d dedicated his life had become complicit in providing a spiritual veneer for a hate-filled political agenda. [Continue reading…]

The spiritual part of our brains — religion not required

Ephrat Livni writes:

Scientists seek to quantify everything—even the ineffable. And so the human search for meaning recently took a physical turn as Columbia and Yale University researchers isolated the place in our brains that processes spiritual experiences.

In a new study, published in Cerebral Cortex (paywall) on May 29, neuroscientists explain how they generated “personally relevant” spiritual experiences in a diverse group of subjects and scanned their brains while these experiences were happening. The results indicate that there is a “neurobiological home” for spirituality. When we feel a sense of connection with something greater than the self—whether transcendence involves communion with God, nature, or humanity—a certain part of the brain appears to activate.

The study suggests that there is universal, cognitive basis for spirituality, as opposed to a cultural grounding for such states. This new discovery, researchers say, could help improve mental health treatment down the line.

Previous studies have examined the brain activity of Buddhist monks or Catholic nuns, say—people who are already spiritually inclined and familiar with the practice of cultivating transcendent states. But this research analyzed subjects from different backgrounds with varying degrees of religiosity, and totally different individual notions of what constitutes a spiritual experience. [Continue reading…]