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Ashley Baxstrom: You’ve probably heard at this point about the Vatican’s statement concerning what it considers to be the wayward actions of its sisters in faith. You can refer to The Revealer’s “Radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” for the basics, including how nuns were “reprimanded for making public statements that ‘disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.’”

And then, you’ve probably heard about some of the reactions, people talking about Christian feminism, and hierarchy, and personal histories with the Church and faith. One major trend in the reactions has been people coming to the defense of the nuns for acting on behalf of social justice and the poor. But we all know a trend of movement hasn’t really gained steam until it’s gone viral, and that’s where we find ourselves today. Continue Reading →

U.S. Religion by Number

Ashley Baxstrom:  Where would we be without the Huffington Post? NOT in the know about the most and least religious states in America, that’s where.

[Full reveal: HuffPo got it from Gallup. But who reads Gallup? Thanks, HuffPo!]

Here’s the breakdown: Mississippi is the most religious, New Hampshire and Vermont tie for least. Eight of the 10 most-religious are in the South, none are in the mid-Atlantic/New England or West Coast regions; but six of the least-religious are in New England, four in the West.

And before you ask –yes, there is an accompanying slideshow of scenic imagery from each state. Continue Reading →

Put a Gun to their Head

Maybe use of fear and violence isn’t the best way to teach about fear and violence.

Ashley Baxstrom:  This headline speaks for itself: “Pennsylvania Church Kidnaps Teens, Holds Them At Gunpoint, For ‘Learning Exercise.’”

It’s pretty much about exactly what you think it is. Officials at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Middleton, Pennsylvania, arranged for members of the church youth group to be actually, physically kidnapped from a meeting and transported to Pastor John Lanza’s house.

The 14-year-old girl interviewed by reporters said that two men armed with guns entered the room, put pillowcases over students’ heads, and pushed them into a van. Continue Reading →

Easter Riot

Ashley Baxstrom: It’s a curious culture we live in when a children’s event has to be cancelled because people are acting belligerently.

It’s troubling even – or maybe especially – when it’s a religious children’s event. A religious children’s event that’s supposed to be a joyous celebration. A religious children’s event that’s supposed to be a joyous celebration about a bunny (or, you know, Jesus).

Continue Reading →

Spring has sprung!

Ashley Baxstrom: Today we celebrate the vernal equinox, herald of spring, which reportedly arrived at 1:14 am. Equinoxes occur twice a year, marking when the periods of night and day are just-about-equal. Here in the northern hemisphere, we appreciate that we’ll be receiving increasingly more warmth and light as the sun passes over the equator. Continue Reading →

Intense Friendliness: Kids, Cults and Criteria

by Ashley Baxstrom

NYU Local reported last week that city students have a lot more to worry about than midterms and the rising price of lattes: dangerous CULTS want to steal your soul, body and money!

According to the post–less an article than a humorous piece, the author admitted to me–the Campus Safety website “warns that cult members may ‘[share] with you the answers they have found to life’s questions, they may seek to enlist your time, energy, and resources in endeavors they believe to be worthwhile.’” This comes from a section entitled “Tips for Identifying a Cult” (right under a section on “How to Avoid Common Swindles and Con Games”). Other tips include: to beware approaching strangers in Greenwich Village (um, how else am I supposed to get a date?) and to call the Center for Spiritual Life for assistance.
Continue Reading →

Ritual and Devotion at Westminster

Observations from a few hours spent at the 136th Kennel Club Dog Show

By Ashley Baxstrom

We gathered, one week ago, like so many pilgrims flocking to a holy site.

Or rather, flocking to a site where the objects of our devotion gathered. Was it the idea of a place in which generations had come together for more than a century, first in 1877 at Gilmore’s Gardens (the Hippodrome), and now here? True, most of the time Madison Square Garden plays host to feats of athletic prowess or demonstrations of theatrical and musical creation. But for this weekend, it was ours. The bright screens overhead glowed with our insignia, our group’s name. Green felt track covered the arena, an ice rink no more (though betrayed by a distinct chill in the air). And everywhere you look, we, the worshippers, and they, the worshipped.

Because it’s not about the place. It’s about the puppies. We’re all here to admire them, gaze at them with love and devotion. Me, I’d like to pet them. I’m not a member of this congregation, just a brief visitor, and I came for puppies. I came because my friend’s boss had tickets and let us borrow them for the morning. It’s like borrowing a parishioner’s pew, sitting in their seat, but the parish is so big nobody knows you don’t belong. They smile and nod at you, because you’re one of them, we’re all in this devotion together. Continue Reading →

I Love You, I Do.

We asked our Near and Dear to tell us something about today, the day when we celebrate love–or loss or absence or grief or joy or chocolate or the color red.  Valentine’s Day is one of those not-so-holy (or so-holiday) holidays we bump into on the annual calendar, on our way to spring, rebirth and Easter rising.  We didn’t really know what we’d get for our asking.

It’s an odd and fascinating assortment of reflections and observations from some of our favorite loves–our regular contributors, family and friends.  Happy Valentine’s Day!  We love you, we do!


“Month of Valentines” by Stacy Doris

“#MyGrownUpValentine” by Ashley Baxstrom with image by Angela Zito

“A Buddhist Valentine” by S. Brent Plate

“My Friend” by Jacob Glatstein, translated from the Yiddish by Peter Manseau

“A Valentine Offering” by Genevieve Yue

“My Wish this Valentine’s Day” by George González

“A Simple Dinner” by Anthea Butler

“St. Valentine’s Fallen Face” by David Metcalfe

“Heart in the Snow” by Mary Valle

“A Red Bagel” by Adam Becker

“The Gospel of Sacred Candy Hearts” by Amy Levin

“Be Mine” by Jeremy Walton


image: “Heart to Heart” by Angela Zito Continue Reading →


By Ashley Baxstrom

[caption id="attachment_10496" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption=""Heart to Heart 2" by Angela Zito"][/caption]


#Valentine’sDay was cocoa in a red mug, powdered sugar & strawberries on my pancakes, a note in my lunchbox from mom. Now it’s all #DIY. Continue Reading →

Back In the Habit and Looking Good

Ashley Baxstrom: The Devil may wear Prada, but that doesn’t mean he owns the market on being fashionably faithy.

Check out the hot new line debuting over at the Community of Compassion, a new Anglican Catholic order in Forth Worth, Texas. When Mother Mary Magdalene, founder of the order, needed help designing new habits – because foundresses are required to design unique new habits for their new orders – she turned to artist Julia Sherman for help, and the result was something new and, in a slightly discomfiting way, a little sexy. Continue Reading →