iPhone as scripture

If you’re caught up in the whole iPhone thing (I still don’t program numbers on my old cell phone), then you might get a kick out of David Kuo’s “Appleism is a Religion”:http://blog.beliefnet.com/jwalking/2007/06/appleism-kuo.html piece on Beliefnet.

If you’re really into Apple — the products and/or the mindset — you’ll get more out of it than I.

He writes:

Apple isn’t a cult anymore, it has become a full blown religion with scores of millions of followers. The frenzy around the iPhone brings to mind the clamoring throngs that greeted Jesus at the height of his ministry.

There are many, many different tests for what makes something a religion. They range from belief in a higher power to sacred rituals to moral codes to sacred places. In every instance Appleism passes the test.

Hey, pundits write the same thing about the Super Bowl every January.

Are you working on your marriage?

What have you done for your marriage today?

This question is at the heart of a new media campaign being started by the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference.

Radio and TV spots will raise the question, hoping to draw couples to “Web materials”:http://www.foryourmarriage.org/ that “highlight the value of marriage” and provide support for couples.


Atheism spreads from books to TV…

On the heels of so many books by non-believers, we now get a three-part TV documentary about the history of non-belief.

“A Brief History of Disbelief,”:http://www.abriefhistoryofdisbelief.org/ produced by the BBC, will begin airing on WNET in NY on Sunday, July 15 at 10:30 p.m. (atheism doesn’t get prime time, it seems).

vid3.jpgThe series was written and narrated by British intellectual Jonathan Miller (that’s him), who is described as “author, lecturer, TV producer/host, director of theater, opera and film, and neurologist.”

“This series is about the disappearance of something: religious faith,” Miller says in the opening. “It’s the story of what is often referred to as ‘atheism,’ the history of the growing conviction that God doesn’t exist.”

In part one, Miller visits Ground Zero to “consider the religious implications of 9/11 and meets Arthur Miller and the philosopher Colin McGinn.”

You can watch Bill Moyers interview Miller “here.”:http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/05042007/watch3.html

Peekskill congregations begin week of prayer for the community

The combined houses of worship in Peekskill will begin a week of prayer Sunday with a “unified day of prayer.” Members of dozens of communities are expected to take part in a kick-off prayer service at 3 p.m. at Peekskill Plaza, 4 Nelson Ave. (the corner of Main Street and Nelson).

The Peekskill Area Pastoral Association, known as PAPA, is asking individual congregations to hold prayer services for the community through the week.

Presiding over Sunday’s service will be the Rev. Adolphus Lacey, PAPA’s new president, who is pastor of the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church.


Methodists, Muslims to work together to ease suffering

Here’s something positive:

This week, the New York-based United Methodist Committee on Relief and the United Kingdom-based Muslim Aid “signed an agreement”:http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.2805909/k.3EFB/UMCOR_and_Muslim_AID_Partnership.htm to work together in providing relief to war-torn and disaster-hit regions.

The agreement, signed at the House of Commons in London, could steer $15 million in combined aid to places that really need it.

“Our partnership with UMCOR reaches out beyond our own religious communities to benefit people in need, no matter what their religious faith,� says Farooq Murad, chairman of Muslim Aid. “Muslim Aid and UMCOR have already proven that we can work together and will continue to work to establish healthy, open communities where trust and faith can flourish.�

The two relief agencies worked together in Sri Lanka after the tsunami of 2004.

Catching up on papal elections, church ‘divorce’ cases and the long-awaited Latin Mass liberation

I’ve been off for a few days (I wrote my posts in advance), so here are some quick thoughts on significant news:

1. Papal elections: Benedict XVI “now says”:http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0703656.htm that a two-thirds majority of cardinals is needed to elect a pope. Period. This had been the rule until JP II amended things only a decade ago so that only a simple majority would be needed after 13 days of voting (presumably, a deadlock of some kind).

Benedict apparently doesn’t like JP’s thinking on this one. A pontiff, Benedict seems to be saying, should be the clear choice of the cardinals.

As “John Allen”:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/27/world/europe/27pope.html?ex=1183608000&en=e5e2f58ca0794e3f&ei=5123&partner=BREITBART told the NYT: “It is to make sure the pope does not look like a leader of a faction but of the entire church.â€?

2. Breakaway church lawsuit: A California Court of Appeal ruled this week that three Episcopal churches that left the Episcopal Diocese of LA cannot take their property with them. A lower court had ruled in favor of the dissident churches, which left the denomination to protest the Episcopal Church’s consecration of an openly gay bishop.

This is an interesting, closely watched case because all the major mainline denominations fear that conservative congregations will seek to go their own way if they can take their church building and property. There are already numerous church “divorce” cases underway across the country.

How significant this decision may be is hard to say, though, because each state has its own property laws and precedents on these cases.

One of the really provocative things about these cases is that judges often examine the “structural” nature of a denomination. They consider whether a denomination is basically hierarchical — whether the mother church makes decisions that traditionally have to be followed — or basically congregational — with individual congregations maintaining significant decision-making power.

The 77-page California decision, which can be linked to from the bottom of this Episcopal Church “press release,”:http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_87321_ENG_HTM.htm includes this:

The constitution and by-laws of the general church plus the history of the local congregation and the “actions of the parties� (for example, by the secessionist pastor acknowledging the authority of the denomination before the split) provided not only substantial evidence to support the trial court’s finding that the denomination was hierarchical, but also established that the local congregation had never been a “‘strictly independent’� church “free of other ecclesiastical associations.�

3. It has been widely — widely — reported for months that Pope Benedict will soon make it easier for parishes to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass. Currently, a priest or parish or group must obtain permission from their bishop to do so. Advocates for the Latin Mass have long said that many bishops are reluctant to grant such permission.

Yesterday, the German newspaper Die Welt and the German wire “Kath.net”:http://www.kath.net/detail.php?id=17154 reported that Benedict will release the long-awaited document about the Latin Mass next Saturday, July 7. He supposedly gave out copies to about 30 bishops at a recent meeting.

So the next stage of the debate will soon begin: What does it mean? Will large numbers of parishes begin, over several years, to celebrate the Latin Mass or will little change? Will Catholics rediscover the beauty and spirituality of the Latin Mass (as its advocates claim) or will they reject the old way? Will priests go for training so that they can celebrate the Mass or will they focus on coming changes to the English translation of the post-Vatican II Mass?

It will take years for this to play out, it seems.

United Methodist marketing seems to stick

I blogged a few days ago about a new “state of the church”:http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.2733523/k.258/State_of_the_Church.htm report from the United Methodist Church, which dealt largely with the ever-present challenge of growth.

Back in 2001, the UMC — the largest mainline Protestant denomination with some 8 million members — started a pretty aggressive marketing campaign aimed at non-church-goers. It was built around the line: “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.”

Now the UMC says the campaign is making headway. According to “new research,”:http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.2454759/apps/nl/content3.asp?content_id={7C981391-65AB-4CA9-862A-4BF582C5ED6E}&notoc=1 30 percent of people surveyed in 2006 were aware of the campaign. It’s steadily increased from 14 percent in 2001.

More than 1,200 people from six test markets (Sacramento, Pittsburgh, Des Moines, Roanoke, Springfield, and Tallahassee/Gainesville) were surveyed about the marketing campaign and the UMC in general.

“The impact of the advertising is that awareness is growing from year to year,� said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications. “The research also indicates that our messages continue to be believable and important to the audience—and they are effectively shifting people’s attitudes about the denomination in a very favorable way.�

Respondents who had seen the advertising were 47 percent more likely to have a favorable view of the UMC. Seventeen percent said they would definitely or probably visit a United Methodist Church over the next three months.

Can’t Christians just get along?

Is the ecumenical movement going anywhere? Or is it frozen time?

Nearly 400 Christians from many different camps will “gather in Ohio”:http://www.ncccusa.org/faithandorder/oberlin2007/program.html from July 19-23 to mark the 50th anniversary of the first meeting of the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches —in essense, the start of the modern ecumenical movement.

There are some heavy hitters taking part. Martin Marty, Mr. Mainline Protestant, will give the anniversary lecture. Cardinal Avery Dulles will be among those who offer their “visions of Christian unity.” The Rev. James Forbes, who just retired from Riverside Church in NYC, will preach.

Chances are, everyone there will know what everyone else believes about the state and future of the amorphous goal known as Christian Unity. Will anything new or interesting come out of the gathering? We’ll see.

Voice of the Faithful, losing money, to call for celibacy review

Is “Voice of the Faithful”:http://www.voiceofthefaithful.org/ through?

A few weeks ago, the AP reported that the lay Catholic group, which formed in Boston during the sex-abuse crisis of 2002, had lost major donors and was projecting a $100,000 budget deficit.

Board Chairman William Casey said the group was having trouble developing a long-term vision after it came together to face an immediate scandal.

“When an emergency and a crisis occurs, people just want to help, they want to do something,â€? Casey said. “But two years out, four years, five, 10 years out, how do you keep that going? … Trying to struggle to figure that out is a real challenge.â€?

More recently, I came across a low-profile “report”:http://www.theday.com/re.aspx?re=0104592c-3c8e-49a8-90f8-7391b38fe693 that Voice of the Faithful will this summer call for a review of priestly celibacy. The group’s current president, Mary Pat Fox of NYC, said that the issue is tied to sex-abuse.

“It’s not that celibacy drives someone to be an abuser,â€? she said. “It plays a role in creating this culture of secrecy that then caused the bishops to handle the crisis the way they didâ€? because “you’re calling for a group to be celibate, and any deviations from that is something that you have to keep quiet.â€?

But here’s the thing: Since VOTF was formed, its leaders have insisted that Voice was not another liberal reform group and that they would not call for major reforms. The group’s reason for being, they said, was to call for openness and accountability from the bishops.

The new approach, then, is sure to bring criticism from some who were suspicious of Voice to start with. And it’s bound to be seen as a desperate move from a group that has not been able to start a movement of committed, centrist Catholics who want a greater lay voice in the church.

In the Archdiocese of New York, with at least 2.5 million Catholics over 10 counties, Voice of the Faithful has only three chapters.

The Orthodox view on internet safety

The Orthodox Union has produced a CD-ROM about the importance of having internet safety guidelines for youth and teens.

dvdwrapcopy400.jpgThe CD-ROM, called “Caught in the Web,”:http://www.ou.org/news/article/ou_presents_internet_safety_cd_to_its_synagogue_network_urging_parents_to_p advises parents on what’s out there in cyberspace — especially what their kids might know about but they don’t.

Frank Buchweitz, the OU’s national director of community services, said:

Cyberspace is made up of a wide array of people, most of whom are decent and respectful, but some may be rude, obnoxious, insulting, exploitive, and dangerous. Adults and children can benefit greatly from being on line, but they can also be targets of crime, exploitation, and harassment in this, as in any other environment.

The OU represents Orthodox Jewish congregations across North America.