Philocrites : Scrapbook : December 2007 Archive

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mormonism and the business class

Quoted 12.26.07:

"It is not the ethical doctrine of a religion, but that form of ethical conduct upon which premiums are placed that matters," [Max] Weber wrote after his visit to the United States, as if repudiating the emphasis on theology characteristic of The Protestant Ethic. It is too bad he did not reflect on Mormons, for no other religion better fits his thesis that practice counts for more than doctrine. The data collected by Putnam and Campbell offer fascinating insight into this aspect of Mormonism. Much is made of the religious engagement of American evangelicals, who attend church in far greater numbers than mainline Protestants or Jews. But Mormons top evangelicals in all categories of religious activity: Seventy-seven percent attend church weekly compared to 55 percent of evangelicals; 74 percent pray daily compared to 62 percent; and 46 percent read scripture daily compared to 35 percent. When it comes to activities like serving as an officer in a congregation or giving money to one's church, Mormonism's rates far exceed those of every other religion. Even more interesting is the fact that Mormons volunteer in non-religious activities more than any other faith in the United States; the only groups that come close are mainline Protestants and Jews. In other words, the general practices of Mormon life--a high bar for church membership, an expectation that Mormons will take an active role in practicing their faith, an ethic of civic involvement--demonstrate moral creditworthiness in a way that no other American religion can match.

Alan Wolfe, New Republic 12.31.07

Monday, December 24, 2007

Evangelicals get behind Huckabee as elite conservatives back Romney

Quoted 12.24.07:

The former Arkansas governor has exposed a fault line within the Republican coalition. The old religious right is dying because it subordinated the views of its followers to short-term political calculations. The white evangelical electorate is tired of taking orders from politicians who care more about protecting the wealthy than ending abortion, more about deregulation than family values. . . .

Huckabee, said [David] Keene [of the American Conservative Union], a Romney supporter, "is not a conservative who is an evangelical; he's an evangelical populist. It's not the evangelical part that conservatives worry about. It's the populism. It's his economic views." . . .

If you had to bet, you'd wager that the Republican establishment will eventually crush Huckabee. But the rebellion he is leading is a warning to Republicans. The faithful are restive, tired of being used and no longer willing to do the bidding of a crowd that subordinates Main Street's values to Wall Street's interests.

E.J. Dionne Jr [op-ed], Washington Post 12.21.07; via Get Religion

Friday, December 21, 2007

Study: Undergrads want to explore meaning of life, colleges don't help

Quoted 12.21.07:

An increasing number of undergraduates express a desire to explore the meaning and purpose of life as they progress through college, [a study by two retired UCLA professors] says. . . .

The study reinforces other research showing a decline in attendance at religious services among college students. . . .

But the Astins' study for the first time documents what they call "significant growth" among college students nationwide in the desire to engage in a spiritual quest, to be more caring, and to develop an ecumenical worldview.

Mary Beth Marklein, USA Today 12.17.07; via Episcopal Cafe

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Neotraditionalism: Trend in many religions

Quoted 12.18.07:

Something curious is happening in the wide world of faith, something that defies easy explanation or quantification. More substantial than a trend but less organized than a movement, it has to do more with how people practice their religion than with what they believe, though people caught up in this change often find that their beliefs are influenced, if not subtly altered, by the changes in their practice.

Put simply, the development is a return to tradition and orthodoxy, to past practices, observances, and customary ways of worshiping. But it is not simply a return to the past — at least not in all cases. Even while drawing on deep traditional resources, many participants are creating something new within the old forms. They are engaging in what Penn State sociologist of religion Roger Finke calls "innovative returns to tradition."

Jay Tolson, US News & World Report 12.13.07; via GetReligion

Friday, December 7, 2007

Romney and the 'war' between faithful and faithless Americans

Quoted 12.07.07:

Mitt Romney didn't start this war, but speeches like his both exploit and solidify this divide in people's minds. The supposed war between the faithful and the faithless has exacted casualties.

The first casualty is the national community. Romney described a community yesterday. Observant Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Jews and Muslims are inside that community. The nonobservant are not. There was not even a perfunctory sentence showing respect for the nonreligious. I'm assuming that Romney left that out in order to generate howls of outrage in the liberal press.

The second casualty of the faith war is theology itself. In rallying the armies of faith against their supposed enemies, Romney waved away any theological distinctions among them with the brush of his hand. In this calculus, the faithful become a tribe, marked by ethnic pride, a shared sense of victimization and all the other markers of identity politics.

David Brooks [op-ed], New York Times 12.7.07; Romney's speech; related articles

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Mitt Romney is no Jack Kennedy

Quoted 12.05.07:

Paradoxically, Kennedy was an indifferent Catholic, which is why there really was no reason to fear that he would take orders from the pope. Even the liberal [Jesuit theologian John Courtney] Murray thought Kennedy went too far in declaring the total separation of his religion from public life. It was an extreme and ultimately untenable stance he thought he had to take.

Mr. Romney, on the other hand, has been a Mormon pastor and the equivalent of a Catholic bishop. Moreover, he is campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination at a time when candidates from both parties are expected to detail how their religion informs their politics — and answer to the news media if they refuse. Kennedy was spared having to explain Catholic doctrines that never mattered much to him. Mr. Romney's challenge is to avoid talking about controversial Mormon doctrines that to him matter very much indeed.

Kenneth L. Woodward [op-ed], New York Times 12.5.07

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pope: 'Protest against God in the name of justice is not helpful'

Quoted 12.02.07:

In ["Saved by Hope," Pope Benedict XVI] elaborated on many themes he has explored over 50 years of writing, as a professor, cardinal, defender of church doctrine and, finally, as pope. At base, his long-held argument is that reason, even if one of God's great gifts to man, is not enough. In fact, he argues, attempts to replace God with reason alone can create disaster, whether through Marxist dogma that lead to communist states, scientific progress that could destroy the world or an Enlightenment that left man alone in the universe — without real hope.

But he also took Christians to task for focusing too narrowly on individual salvation, "a way of abandoning the world to its misery and taking refuge in a private form of eternal salvation." He criticized modern Christianity for not providing a religious counterpoint to "the successes of science in progressively structuring the world."

"In doing so, it has limited the horizon of its hope and has failed to recognize sufficiently the greatness of its task," he continued, calling for self-criticism among religious leaders.

Ian Fisher, New York Times 12.1.07; read "Spe salvi" ("Saved by Hope"; Vatican website); more from National Catholic Reporter, 11.30.07

Church reveres jazz legend John Coltrane as patron saint

Quoted 12.02.07:

[T]he service [at the St. John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church] proceeds with an aesthetic that is half jam session and half revival meeting. A traditional Christian liturgy — including the Lord's Prayer and readings from a Gospel and an Epistle — takes places amid a series of intense, almost incantatory performances of Coltrane compositions.

"The kind of music you listen to is the person you become," [Archbishop Franzo Wayne] King says in his sermon. "When you listen to John Coltrane, you become a disciple of the anointed of God."

Samuel G. Freedman, New York Times 12.1.07