2. Reverend Vince Anderson and his Love Choir preach the gospel every Monday night.  At a bar.  In Brooklyn.

    Great idea, but craft beer won’t lure millennials to Christianity.


  3. A church for atheists: Now a thing. But, erm, why?


  4. You’re probably familiar with the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church, a fringe religious group of anti-gay, anti-Semitic, anti-kindness-in-general people infamous for picketing at the funerals of fallen soldiers, protesting charitable organizations, showing up with hateful signs after national tragedies, and for being generally terrible, terrible people.

    This weekend the WBC’s spokesperson announced their plans to picket at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

    When six members of Westboro showed up at the University of Chicago to protest the school’s employment of Barack Obama, more than 100 students organized various counterprotests, which ran through the duration of WBC’s “visit.” Student events included a simultaneous picket featuring signs warning of America’s doom-by-figs, flyers deploring fig-eaters and speakers who told of God’s vengeance upon fig-loving nations (all sourced from a reference to evil figs in the book of Jeremiah). 

    10 nonviolent ways to thwart a Westboro Baptist Church protest

    (Source: theweek.com)


  5. Between the Salvation Army’s bell-ringing Santas and thrift-store empire, people often forget that the international group "is actually a Christian church organization with many conservative tenets and a military-style structure,” says Zach Ford at Think Progress. And recently, Maj. Andrew Craibe, the media relations officer for Australia’s southern territory, reminded us of that fact by agreeing on-air with two gay radio hosts that the Salvation Army believes gay people “should die.” The group quickly scrambled to clarify Craibe’s remark — after all, the Salvation Army’s mission is to “preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination” — but this is hardly the Salvation Army’s first run-in with the gay community.

    Here, a look at the influential charity’s challenging history with homosexuality and gay rights:

    • 1865 — Former Methodist minister William Booth founds the Salvation Army in London, giving his religious mission a military structure and trappings, including its own flag, military-style uniforms, hymns, and ranks
    • 1880 — The Salvation Army sets up shop in the U.S., Australia, and Ireland
    • 1986 — The Salvation Army collects signatures for a petition to stop the New Zealand legislature from decriminalizing homosexuality. The Homosexual Law Reform Act passes anyway.
    • May 1, 2001 — An internal document from the Salvation Army says the charity has a “firm commitment” from the Bush administration for a national regulation shielding it and other religious charities from city and state laws barring discrimination against gays and lesbians, The Washington Post reports. The Salvation Army never discriminates in who it serves, says senior official George Hood, but being forced to hire gays “really begins to chew away at the theological fabric of who we are.”
    • July 11, 2001 — The Bush administration turns down the Salvation Army’s request 
    • 2004 — The Salvation Army threatens to leave New York City if Mayor Michael Bloomberg enforces a new ordinance requiring all groups with city contracts to offer benefits to the same-sex partners of employees. Bloomberg, who opposed the ordinance, doesn’t enforce it. 
    • Feb. 14, 2006 — The New York State Court of Appeals upholds Bloomberg’s right to ignore the ordinance, leaving future enforcement decisions to the discretion of whomever is mayor 
    • July 2006 — The New Zealand branch of the Salvation Army apologizes over any remaining “hurt” from its prominent role in trying to stymie the Homosexual Law Reform Act 20 years earlier
    • Nov. 21, 2011 — Bil Browning at The Bilerico Project promotes a drive encouraging gay-rights supporters to give their holiday donations to other charities that don’t “actively discriminate against the LGBT community” 
    • June 21, 2012 —Maj. Andrew Craibe, the Australian Salvation Army spokesman, goes on the radio program Salt and Pepper, where gay hosts Serena Ryan and Pete Dillon ask him about his organization’s assertion in its officialSalvation Story: Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine that practicing homosexuals “deserve to die.” “So we should die,” Ryan tells Craibe, who replies: “You know, we have an alignment to the Scriptures, but that’s our belief.”
    • June 23 — In a statement, the Salvation Army “sincerely apologizes” for Craibe’s “miscommunication” and the “serious misunderstanding” of the group’s beliefs. The scripture in question “is not referring to physical death, nor is it specifically targeted at homosexual behavior,” says Maj. Bruce Harmer of Salvation Army Australia. Instead, the church believes that “no human being is without sin, all sin leads to spiritual death (separation from God),” and that “it would be inconsistent with Christian teaching to call for anyone to be put to death.” 

  6. The Roman Catholic Church is having a rough time in the public relations department: Frequent leaks on infighting and corruption among Pope Benedict XVI’s top advisers have embarrassed the Vatican, a crackdown on American nuns is drawing bad press, and a long-running child sex-abuse scandal made headlines again Friday thanks to the monumental child-endangerment conviction of a Philadelphia prelate.

    Now, the Holy See has a new strategy to resolve this media mess: Hiring Fox News journalist Greg Burke as senior communications adviser. Burke, who is also a member of the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei — the antagonists in The Da Vinci Code — likens his new role to that of the White House’s top media strategist. “You’re shaping the message,” he says, and “you’re trying to make sure everyone remains on-message.”

    Why did the Vatican tap a Fox News alum for this job? 


  7. How marriage has changed over centuries

    Critics of gay marriage see it as an affront to sacred, time-tested traditions. In actuality, the institution has been in a process of constant evolution.

    The ancient Hebrews, for instance, engaged in polygamy — according to the Bible, King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines — and men have taken multiple wives in cultures throughout the world, including China, Africa, and among American Mormons in the 19th century. Polygamy is still common across much of the Muslim world.

    The idea of marriage as a sexually exclusive, romantic union between one man and one woman is a relatively recent development. Until two centuries ago, said Harvard historian Nancy Cott, “monogamous households were a tiny, tiny portion” of the world population, found in “just Western Europe and little settlements in North America.”

    Keep reading