Judaism

God, man, Israel, fluoride, Kosher laws and Dr. Strangelove

God, man, Israel, fluoride, Kosher laws and Dr. Strangelove

Some might argue that the war in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge ( צוּק אֵיתָן), was the major news story out of Israel this summer.  The seven week military operation launched by the IDF against Hamas certainly was the focus of the majority of news stories. The quantity of stories on a topic, however, is not a reliable gauge as to the importance of an issue. 

In 2008 I was part of the Jerusalem Post’s team covering the Second Lebanon War (albeit in my case as their London correspondent reporting on the European and British responses). That war between Israel and Hezbollah generated a great deal of ink, but that conflict has quickly disappeared from current memories. It was another in an unending series of conflicts between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and their surrogates. The sharp rise in public displays of anti-Semitism in Europe in the wake of Operation Protective Edge may give this latest war “legs”, but the issues, actors and outcomes have not changed all that much.
 
Were I to add, only partially tongue in cheek, another candidate for the “big” story out of Israel this summer, I would nominate this item in Newsweek

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There's a mess here, all right, but not a Messianic Jew

There's a mess here, all right, but not a Messianic Jew

The BBC this week ran an article with the misleading headline "Israeli police bust 'messianic' prostitution ring." 

It's a misleading headline because normally when the word "Messianic" is used in relation to Jews, it refers to adherents of Messianic Judaism -- but that is not the case with the cult described in the story. Unfortunately, the rest of the story does not make this clear.

Some background: Messianic Judaism is a form of Protestant Christianity that strongly identifies with Jewish ritual, prayers, and cultural identity. In other words, Messianic Jews believe the Jewish Messiah has already come, and his name is Yeshua -- Hebrew for "Jesus." (My own faith journey included brief involvement with the Messianic Jewish community.)

The BBC's story, although not identifying the cult as Christian, reinforces the implication that Messianic Jews were behind the prostitution ring when it refers to women being forced by a "messianic sect" to have sex with "non-Jews":

Details have emerged from Israel about a prostitution ring in which Jewish women were allegedly forced into having sex with non-Jews by a messianic sect.

Two men and two women are being detained on suspicion of exploitation.

Police say the victims were brainwashed into believing that having sex with non-Jews would "save the Jewish people and bring about redemption".

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Secret no more: Executed journalist Steven Sotloff's Jewish faith makes headlines

Secret no more: Executed journalist Steven Sotloff's Jewish faith makes headlines

Patience, boss. The mainstream press got to the story on day two.

GetReligion's editor, Terry Mattingly, questioned Wednesday why major media outlets seemed to be ignoring the Jewish faith of Steven Sotloff, the latest journalist executed by Islamic State militants.

While tmatt said he could understand withholding that incendiary detail while radical Islamists held Sotloff, he asked:

However, why — now — is the faith element of this tragedy not relevant to editors at CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc.? Why isn't this part of the basic factual material at the foundation of this tragic story?

But it didn't take long for that basic factual material to start making its way into mainstream news accounts. Washington Post religion writer Michelle Boorstein was among those who jumped on the story.

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It's time to say the obvious: Yes, the late Steven Joel Sotloff was Jewish

It's time to say the obvious: Yes, the late Steven Joel Sotloff was Jewish

Now that journalist Steven Joel Sotloff is gone, it's time to talk about one of the issues that loomed over this tragedy (which was the subject of an earlier post by Dawn).

I thought that CNN was going to finally state the obvious, when its piece on the Sotloff execution by the Islamic State included this subhead: "Who was Sotloff?"

Good question. And the answer is? 

Sotloff disappeared while reporting from Syria in August 2013, but his family kept the news secret, fearing harm to him if they went public. Out of public view, the family and government agencies had been trying to gain his release for the past year.
Last week, Sotloff's mother, Shirley Sotloff, released a video pleading with ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi not to kill her son.
"Steven is a journalist who traveled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants. Steven is a loyal and generous son, brother and grandson," she said. "He is an honorable man and has always tried to help the weak."

That, of course, is not all that she said, as Dawn noted the other day. The family had every reason to fear the worst and for multiple reasons.

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Vermont bacon wars: How much religious info does a news report need?

Vermont bacon wars: How much religious info does a news report need?

One of the most interesting questions my students ask me all the time can be stated like this: In an age of short stories and even shorter attention spans, how do I know how much information is enough when I'm dealing with a complicated topic? 

You can see the relevance to the religion beat, right? How do you know how much the average reader actually knows about a given world religion (think Islam) or even, in an American context, details about different forms of Judaism or Christianity? How do you know when you need to stop and spend a few precious words explaining something that, to some readers, may be perfectly obvious, but not perfectly obvious to others?

Well, I saw an interesting little story the other day from Burlington, Vt., that perfectly illustrated this situation and I stashed it away for later discussion. Reading it a second time I noticed that, well, it was written by a former student of mine, someone with whom I have had this precise discussion.

So, let me clearly state that connection and note that the following is not a slam job. I honestly do not know whether this little story has to have an addition fact paragraph or two. I also don't know if the reporter (hello there, April) write additional material that was removed by an editor. Things happen. This is one reason GetReligionistas rarely mention reporters by name.

So what's the subject here? Well, it's Islam and bacon.

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How does the modern Catholic Church view marriages with Jews?

How does the modern Catholic Church view marriages with Jews?

LISA ASKS:

When a Catholic marries a Jew, does the Catholic Church recognize that marriage as a sacrament, since Catholicism has roots in Judaism?

THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:

No. In the church’s view a marriage between a Catholic and an adherent of Judaism (or any other non-Christian religion) is not a sacrament. This doesn’t mean the church doubts the couple is truly married, nor does it signify any disrespect toward Judaism with which -- yes -- Christianity has great affinity.

The Canon Law Society of America commentary on the 1983 law code notes there’ve been “extensive changes” toward leniency in marriage rules since the Second Vatican Council, partly because such mixed marriages have become “more commonplace and socially acceptable.”

Technically, marriage with a non-Christian involves “the impediment of disparity of cult.” 

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TGIF: For Friday fulfillment, five female-friendly faith features

TGIF: For Friday fulfillment, five female-friendly faith features

Via a food truck, a Lutheran clergy member delivers hot calzones — and nuggets of Scripture. 

Two Roman Catholics in their 80s provide spiritual care for immigrants facing deportation. An Assembly of God pastor battles prostitution and pimps.

Weeks after contracting the often-deadly Ebola virus, an evangelical Christian missionary leaves the hospital in good health. A Hasidic Jewish rock band tries to reach a broader audience.

What do they have in common?

They're all women. 

For your weekend reading pleasure, here are five compelling religion stories (some pulled from my GetReligion guilt folder) that feature women of faith. No, not those Women of Faith, although I hope they check out the links, too.

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NYTimes Metro desk probes some of the church-state ties that bind

NYTimes Metro desk probes some of the church-state ties that bind

I continue to field questions about the meaning of the term "Kellerism," which is well on its way to entering the GetReligionista dictionary. To catch up on that debate, surf this collection of links or, in particular, read this earlier post.

The bottom line: "Kellerism," a direct reference to you know who saying you know what, is deliberate advocacy journalism in coverage of hot-button stories linked to religious, moral and cultural issues. The key is that The Times, as an institution, has never formally stated that its commitment to accurate, balanced coverage has been edited in this manner. This is a selective bias.

However, some recent trends at The Times may require a slight tweaking of my definition. It appears that "Kellerism" primarily kicks into play in stories addressing issues linked to the world's most powerful newspapers's defense of sacred doctrines linked to the Sexual Revolution. Long-suffering religious believers who continue to follow the newspaper day after day may have noticed that its Metro desk is producing some very interesting and fair-minded coverage of religion.

Consider the recent news feature that ran under the headline, "De Blasio’s Prekindergarten Expansion Collides With Church-State Divide."

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God, angels, demons and the brilliant, troubled life of Robin Williams

God, angels, demons and the brilliant, troubled life of Robin Williams

In the end, it was all about the voices in Robin William's head, the brilliant voices, the angelic voices and what he often described as the quiet voices of his demons. Almost every mainstream media obituary for the beloved actor and comic includes some variation on this passage from the main story at The Los Angeles Times:

Over the years, the international superstar struggled with alcohol and cocaine addiction. ... Williams was a close friend of the late comic John Belushi and was with him March 5, 1982, just hours before Belushi died of an overdose at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. The pain of a friend's death helped Williams kick his own bad habits, but the cure wasn't permanent.

In 2006, he returned to rehab after two decades of sobriety.

"You're standing at a precipice and you look down, there's a voice and it's a little quiet voice that goes, 'Jump!' " he told ABC News.

Sometimes the voices told him to do things that, as an addict, he knew were completely irrational. He didn't mind telling people that he knew what it was like to wrestle with demons inside his own head. That voice on the precipice? 

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