The fall and the strange rise of liberal religion

The most recent Jewish Community Study of New York held few surprises for those who have followed the sobering Jewish trends of recent decades.Yes, the 1.5 million or so Jews living in New York City and surrounding counties included a rising tide of people living in interfaith relationships and some had even begun calling themselves "partially Jewish." Participation in liberal Jewish congregations declined, again. Jews who said it was "very important" to affiliate with Jewish institutions … [Read more...]

God in the Gallup details

Decade after decade, the Gallup Organization reported some of the most familiar numbers in American religion.More than 90 percent of Americans said, "yes" when asked if they believe in God -- a number has changed little since the 1940s. Nearly 80 percent insisted they are "Christians," in some sense of that word. How many claimed to have attended a worship service in the previous week or so? That number hovered between 41 and 46 percent.These are the kinds of numbers religious leaders love … [Read more...]

An archbishop faces ghost of JFK

In the beginning, there was candidate John F. Kennedy, who told an assembly of Protestant ministers not to worry about his Catholicism because, "I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair."In that influential 1960 address, Kennedy boldly proclaimed: "I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me."Whatever issue may come before me as president -- on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject -- I will … [Read more...]

Prayers in a minefield (civil religion II)

Phyllis Tickle tried to pay close attention to the prayers at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, which isn't surprising since she has written a whole shelf of books on rites of public and private prayer. The problem was that she didn't hear much in the way of traditional prayer, in terms of clergy offering words of praise and petition to God. Instead, the prayers sounded like lectures or mini-sermons aimed at the masses on the National Mall."Did I think the official prayers were … [Read more...]

Our political high holy day, part I

EDITOR'S NOTE: First of two columns on President Barack Obama's inauguration.As Aretha Franklin finished singing "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," the queen of soul did what she has done for decades -- she improvised.The result was a soaring bridge between the inauguration of President Barack Obama and a sermon 45 years ago at the Lincoln Memorial."Our fathers' God, to thee, author of liberty, to thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, with freedom's holy light, protect us by thy might," sang … [Read more...]

On the count of three — pray

At the first inauguration of George W. Bush as president, the Rev. Franklin Graham raised eyebrows by using an edgy word in his prayer."May this be the beginning of a new dawn for America as we humble ourselves before you and acknowledge you alone as our Lord, our Savior and our Redeemer," said Graham, the fiery son of evangelist Billy Graham. "We pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."Four years later, the word showed up … [Read more...]

Soaring candidates in ’08

If Mike Huckabee has said it once, he has said it a thousand times during his bid to reach the White House."I have a great respect for Barack Obama," noted Huckabee, during a "Tonight Show" visit. "I think he's a person who is trying to do in many ways what I hope I'm trying to do and that is to say, 'Let's quit what I call horizontal politics.' "Everything in this country is not left, right, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican. I think the country is looking for somebody who is … [Read more...]


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