"But Marriage is No Sacrament."

From Gary Wills’ new article at New York Review of Books:

The early church had no specific rite for marriage. This was left up to the secular authorities of the Roman Empire, since marriage is a legal concern for the legitimacy of heirs. When the Empire became Christian under Constantine, Christian emperors continued the imperial control of marriage, as the Code of Justinian makes clear. When the Empire faltered in the West, church courts took up the role of legal adjudicator of valid marriages. But there was still no special religious meaning to the institution. As the best scholar of sacramental history, Joseph Martos, puts it: “Before the eleventh century there was no such thing as a Christian wedding ceremony in the Latin church, and throughout the Middle Ages there was no single church ritual for solemnizing marriage between Christians.”

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Daily Links: Pressing Questions Edition

Where is Jesus’ foreskin?  Listen to David Farley discuss An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town on NPR’s Rick Steve Show.

Does Daddy Know Best?  Ann Pellegrini on the nature of recent attempts to further limit women’s privacy and reproductive choice.

Are imagination and science really at war? An excerpt from Lawrence Lipking’s “Facts and Dreams” at The New Republic:

To some extent the so-called conflict seems bogus. A benevolent reading of Blake’s proverb [What is now proved was once, only imagined” from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell] might reduce it to common sense, or to a maxim that any scientist might follow in applying for a grant to test an idea. No idea, no funding; no imagined Higgs boson, no CERN. In this respect the hypothetical construct that drives attempts to prove or disprove it is not the opposite of science but its prime mover. Imagination and proof couple together as tightly as mind and body, or as Blake’s visions and the books that he makes with his hands. Great scientists are visionaries, too.

Can Romney break the Hoover Curse?

Is Obama the Devil?  Ok, ok.  Is he anti-religion?  Social conservative Steve Chapman writes at Reason, that Obama hasn’t been all that bad for faith-based organizations, critiques that he’s anti-religious freedom be damned.

Can a woman be feminist and pro-life?

How much money does the state of Indiana give to “family values” organization Indiana Family Institute each year?  Andy Kopsa does the accounting at Nuvo.

What’s so funny about the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia’s recent Fatwa?  Paul Mutter tracks journalist Hamza Kashgari’s extradition for tweeting about Muhammad.

What happens when a Catholic hospital merges with a non-denominational one?

What is informed consent?  Governor Bob McDonnell, who opposes Virginia’s mandate that all women seeking an abortion be given a sonogram (often requiring an invasive procedure), still loses points for allowing that such information is “informed consent.”  McDonnell said, “Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state.”  Sure enough.  But don’t we think pregnant women know they’re pregnant?  How much information must patients be given?  How can the state determine when a patient really understands the procedure they face?  How can a doctor?  These questions are asked and answered all the time.  Check out Thaddeus Pope’s recent notes on a “futile care” case in Canada. Continue Reading →

Qu’est qui ce passe en France?

Ashley Baxstrom: What’s up with France?  President Nicolas Sarkozy of France joined President Barack Obama here in New York last week to celebrate the 125th anniversary of France’s gift of the Statue of Liberty to the US. The statue was originally dedicated on Oct. 28, 1886 in recognition of the French-American friendship established during the Revolutionary War.

Both leaders hailed the statue as a symbol of freedom. “It is not simply a statue,” Sarkozy said through a translator. “It is a notion, an idea, an emblem. It is for all people of the world.” But while the French were proud to offer America “The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World” (full titles, please), they seem to be having more trouble balancing the values of la liberté and l’éclaircissement in their own country. Continue Reading →

Osama Bin Laden, Dead

Typing this, I hesitate.  Is this a mere death?  An assassination?  A murder?  And if not the latter, why not?  Mass murderers and perpetrators of genocide have been brought to trial, yet the U.S. now abandons established paths of justice.  They’ve “taken him out.”  Have we already tried bin Laden in our media, determined him guilty beyond doubt, not worthy of justice except the justice that we see in death? Continue Reading →

Showing Them to the Dining Room

The Obama administration has failed to regulate discrimination by federally-funded faith-based organizations

By Andy Kopsa

I have been investigating and reporting on an anti-gay Christian political organization, the Iowa Family Policy Center (IFPC), for over a year now.  The IFPC, a state affiliate of the Family Research Council*, a premier national anti-gay rights organization, has received over $3 million in government grants since 2005.  When I began uncovering the ease with which the IFPC (and numerous other FRC state affiliates) applied for and received federal funding, coupled with their blatant anti-gay political message, I began investigating the history and mechanics of the faith-based funding system.

I, like many others, anxiously awaited President Obama’s executive order expected to revise George W. Bush’s policymaking and funding criteria for faith-based organizations. But the order released on November 17th offers little in the way of true reform. Instead it is a wordy regurgitation of existing transparency reformations, offers minor tweaks to protections of beneficiaries, does nothing for spending oversight reform and completely eschews legalized hiring discrimination allowed faith-based organizations.

In 2008, then candidate Obama said that although he supported funding faith-based programs, he would do away with hiring discrimination.  However, like so many Obama promises, that is one yet to be fulfilled. Continue Reading →

Faith and Trust

The nomination of Elana Kagan to the Supreme Court has a few progressive commentators rightly chattering over the cartes blanches the Obama administration is receiving. Glenn Greenwald at Salon provides the most cogent summation of the illogic:

Just think about what that means. If the choice is Kagan, you’ll have huge numbers of Democrats and progressives running around saying, in essence: “I have no idea what Kagan thinks or believes about virtually anything, and it’s quite possible she’ll move the Court to the Right, but I support her nomination and think Obama made a great choice.” In other words, according to Chemerinksy and Yglesias, progressives will view Obama’s choice as a good one by virtue of the fact that it’s Obama choice. Isn’t that a pure embodiment of mindless tribalism and authoritarianism?

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Seal of Approval.

Does the president regularly endorse liberal practitioners of other religious traditions as somehow upstanding citizens of those traditions? He does not embrace and identify forms of Christianity and Judaism that he likes, even though there are obviously tendencies within both those religious traditions that support an illiberal relationship to politics and violence. Continue Reading →