Washington Post runs Spock-tacular story on Leonard Nimoy

Washington Post runs Spock-tacular story on Leonard Nimoy

Whenever Trekkies flash Spock's Vulcan "Live Long and Prosper" sign, they're actually borrowing from Judaism, Leonard Nimoy often said. That fact came to the fore in numerous retrospects after Nimoy's death Feb. 27.

"People don’t realize they're blessing each other with this!" he says in one of the better stories, based on a recorded interview reported by the Post.

Nimoy became a photographer, a director, a narrator, even a singer over his career. But his best-known role was, of course, Spock, the logic-minded alien in three TV seasons and eight films based on the original Star Trek. The religious/spiritual gesture? Abby Ohlheiser of the Washington Post nails it in the first two paragraphs:

Leonard Nimoy first saw what became the famous Vulcan salute, “live long and prosper,” as a child, long before “Star Trek” even existed. The placement of the hands comes from a childhood memory, of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue service in Boston.
The man who would play Spock saw the gesture as part of a blessing, and it never left him. “Something really got hold of me,” Nimoy said in a 2013 interview with the National Yiddish Book Center.

The story is absorbing both on a personal and religious level. Ohlheiser, with contributions by ace religion writer Michelle Boorstein, fills in Nimoy's Ukrainian background and upbringing in Boston. His acquaintance with Yiddish led him to helping support the book center.

In a little disclosure, Ohlheiser says she worked at the book center as a college student. Her experience led her to ask about anything that Nimoy had done there, leading to the gold mine of the recorded interview.

Religiously, the story is, as Spock might say, fascinating:

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Anglican wars update in Fort Worth: Star-Telegram misses a date or two in timeline

Anglican wars update in Fort Worth: Star-Telegram misses a date or two in timeline

The Anglican wars timeline keeps getting longer and longer, as the court cases roll on and on and the lawyers keep cashing the checks. It is very hard for reporters to keep up with all of the details, of course, especially since there are brilliant experts on both sides whose views of the facts clash more often than not.

However, as always, it helps to know what happened when.

Take the case that is unfolding in Fort Worth, Texas, the subject of another amazingly short update in The Star-Telegram. I can understand the temptation to cut to the chase, but the problem with this story is that it is not nearly as complicated as it should be.

The new headline is that the old guard in the local diocese -- doctrinally conservative Anglicans -- won a major victory over the progressive Episcopal Church establishment , which, of course, will now be tested in another court. Let's walk through this story a bit and see where editors needed to plug in a bit more history.

FORT WORTH -- After a bitter, seven-year legal dispute, state District Judge John Chupp ruled Monday that the Episcopalians led by Bishop Jack Iker who broke away from the national Episcopal Church are entitled to an estimated $100 million in property in the 24-county Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.
Fort Worth-area Episcopalians who remained loyal to the national Episcopal Church and reorganized the diocese under Bishop Rayford High have the right to appeal the decision.

Now, the key to this case -- from the point of view of the Anglican right -- is that Iker had for years been, and his supporters believe he still is, the leader of the real Fort Worth diocese. He was there first. This story hints at that fact -- note the word "reorganized" in the reference to Bishop High -- but doesn't state it clearly.

Why does that matter?

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Front-page news in Indianapolis: 5-year-old survey data on 'animus' toward same-sex marriage

Front-page news in Indianapolis: 5-year-old survey data on 'animus' toward same-sex marriage

In a front-page story this week, the Indianapolis Star reported on "the real reason behind opposition to same-sex marriage."

Prepare to be shocked.

Religion plays a role:

Why do you oppose same-sex marriage?
Indiana University sociologist Brian Powell posed this question to hundreds of people across the nation as part of a research project.
He was curious to see if what people say actually matches the legal arguments being made to justify bans on same-sex marriage.
The legal arguments are rooted in public policy considerations. The public responses decidedly were not.
From his survey results, published recently in the sociological journal Social Currents, here's one response that reflected the majority of opposition to same-sex marriage: "Because I don't believe God intended them to be that way."
"It's beastly," said another. A third: "Well, they're sinners."

What the Star doesn't bother to mention: While Powell's paper was published recently, the survey itself was conducted in 2010 — five years ago.

As you might have noticed, there has been a little publicity on the issue since then — and rapidly changing attitudes, from the American public to the U.S. president. 

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Shocker! Archbishop Cordileone attempts to defend Catholic Catechism in his schools

Shocker! Archbishop Cordileone attempts to defend Catholic Catechism in his schools

It’s a sign of the times that the idea of the Catholic archbishop of the nation’s most gay-friendly city standing his ground on sexual practice is front-page news. There’s been quite the media war going on this past month ever since Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone lowered the boom, making it clear how he expects teachers in Catholic high schools to behave.

First, some back story: The San Francisco Chronicle laid out his new requirements in a straightforward piece on Feb. 3:

The conservative Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco has developed a new document for Catholic high school faculty and staff clarifying that sex outside of marriage, homosexual relations, the viewing of pornography and masturbation are “gravely evil.”
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s document applies to faculty and staff at four Catholic high schools: Riordan and Sacred Heart in San Francisco, Marin Catholic in Kentfield and Serra High School in San Mateo. It states that administrators, faculty and staff “affirm and believe” the controversial statements, which will be part of the faculty handbook.
The document goes on to say that marriage is between “one man and one woman,” despite California law allowing same-sex marriages. It also notes that sperm donation, the use of a surrogate and other forms of “artificial reproductive technology” are also gravely evil.
The document notes that while not all staff at the schools are Catholic, they are “required to stand as effective and visible professional participants and proponents of truly Catholic education.” Those who are not Catholic “must refrain” from participating in organizations that “advocate issues or causes contrary to the teachings of the church.”

Apparently this is news to some of the 317 teachers affected by this rule although you must wonder what planet they’ve been on to not know where the Catholic Church stands on these issues.

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Shocker! Erskine College covenant affirms 2,000 years of Christian doctrine on sex

Shocker! Erskine College covenant affirms 2,000 years of Christian doctrine on sex

GetReligion readers who know a thing or two about religious colleges and universities (also private schools for younger students) know that there is nothing unusual about these institutions asking students, staff and faculty to sign a "doctrinal covenant," often called a "lifestyle covenant," which confuses matters a bit.

This is an issue that frequently comes up in GetReligion critiques of mainstream news coverage, in part because many journalists don't seem to realize that it's normal (think First Amendment, once again) for voluntary associations on both the left and right to ask those who choose to become members to affirm, or at least not to publicly oppose, the goals and teachings (think "doctrines") of these groups. Thus, there is nothing unusual about the leaders of a network that opposes global warming to insist that its members to oppose global warming. There is nothing strange about a group for vegetarians choosing not to have officers who are openly affirm eating meat. Few Jewish groups want Messianic Jews/Southern Baptists as leaders. Ditto for Muslim groups welcoming Zionists.

This brings us to the hands-down winner of the worst headline of last week, care of The Washington Post. Once again, this headline graced one of those strange, brave new journalism (What is this?) "reported blog" pieces that was, nevertheless, promoted by the Post in lists of major news stories. News? Editorial? Who knows? Oh well? Whatever? Nevermind? The headline:

South Carolina college bans homosexuality after two volleyball players come out as gay

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In the New England forecast: Lots of snow, with a chance of coffers drying up at houses of worship

In the New England forecast: Lots of snow, with a chance of coffers drying up at houses of worship

New England's tough winter is starting to make headlines — on the religion beat.

The Associated Press reported over the weekend:

BOSTON (AP) -- Religious leaders in snowbound New England are beginning to ask themselves how on Earth their houses of worship will make ends meet after all these acts of God.
Churches, synagogues and mosques report attendance is down at services, as poorly timed winter storms have hit on or close to days of worship. And getting the faithful to come out is challenging, with limited parking and treacherously icy sidewalks plaguing the region.
For many places of worship, that has meant donations are drying up just as costs for snow removal, heating and maintenances are soaring.
"You have this perfect storm of people not being able to go to worship and so not bringing in offerings, combined with much higher than usual costs," says Cindy Kohlmann, who works with Presbyterian churches in Greater Boston and northern New England.

The AP lede's emphasis on "churches, synagogues and mosques" drew this response from Ira Rifkin, one of my fellow GetReligionistas:

Hmmm ... just the big three, once again. I believe the Boston area has more Buddhist centers than any other city in the nation (needs fact checking). But even if not, it's just the big three. America's more diverse than that.

Interesting point, and honestly, not one that would have struck me on my own. Alas, Massachusetts does have more Buddhists than Muslims, according to a 2010 demographic report by the Association of Religion Data Archives.

Still, give AP credit for a timely, enterprising religion angle on the weather.

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How should we understand the three 'Abrahamic' religions?

How should we understand the three 'Abrahamic' religions?

NIHAL ASKS:

Why aren’t the three Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) one main religion?

THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:

Nihal posted his query while preparing a 9th grade school report, and unfortunately this response comes too late to help. On the specific question of”why” these three faiths exist the way they are the best a mere journalist can say is “God only knows.” However the interrelationships, overlaps, and differences among these great religions are certainly worth pondering, and not just in schoolrooms.

Christianity and Islam are No. 1 and No. 2 in size among world faiths and together encompass a majority of the people on earth. They are major competitors today and their past political confrontations, raised recently by President Barack Obama, were often violent.

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OK, I'll ask The New York Times: Any faith issues lurking in firestorm about Netanyahu speech?

OK, I'll ask The New York Times: Any faith issues lurking in firestorm about Netanyahu speech?

Hang in there with me, because I am going to ask what I freely admit could be a very silly question.

As you may have noticed, people here in the land of the Beltways, and in New York City, of course, are melting down as they argue about Speaker John Boehner’s decision to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to address Congress. How big an issue is this across the nation? I don't know, but it's a big deal here.

My question is about religion (#DUH) I am aware that doctrinally liberal, oh, Episcopalians are highly likely to be liberal politically, especially when compared with doctrinally conservative Anglicans. The same thing is true with, let's say, doctrinally liberal Lutherans and doctrinally orthodox Lutherans. Or Baptists. Or Methodists. You can see this perfectly obvious point.

Now, I know how to connect the doctrinal dots in these cases, how, for example, doctrines on sexual morality lead to political views that point left or right. What I'm struggling with is understanding the patterns in this case -- the Netanyahu wars. Consider this passage from a report in The Forward, on the Jewish left:

As the Israel lobby kicked off its meeting, Netanyahu jetted into town after proclaiming that he speaks “for the Jewish people” on Iran -- a claim that drew an unusually harsh critique from pro-Israel stalwart Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat.
“(Netanyahu) doesn’t speak for me on this,” Feinstein told CNN. “I think it’s a rather arrogant statement. I think the Jewish community is like any other community, there are different points of view. I think that arrogance does not befit Israel, candidly.”

Understood.

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Brooklyn terrorism arrests: Suspects talk like jihadis, but New York Times doesn't notice

Brooklyn terrorism arrests: Suspects talk like jihadis, but New York Times doesn't notice

"When to act? When to watch? When does someone seemingly radicalized become an imminent danger?"

Pithy questions for law enforcement and anti-terrorism agents, and for news media -- especially when three young men in Brooklyn are picked up on charges of supporting the Islamic State, even though they weren’t prominent in any terror plots. But just as the authorities don’t always track all the clues, neither do some newspapers like the New York Times.

The Times looks carefully at the case against Akhror Saidakhmetov and Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, who are accused of trying to join the Islamic State in Syria. The third, Abror Habibov, is accused of helping raise funds for them to do so.

The newspaper examines their jobs and interests; it scrutinizes their e-mails and relationships; it asks agents how they investigate. What it doesn't do is focus on the mutant form of Islam into which the youths were apparently being sucked.

One Times article looks at dilemmas for law enforcement:

The decision to arrest the men highlights the evolving challenges confronting law enforcement as officials calculate whether and when to intervene in instances of what some have begun calling “known wolves.”
There are “lone wolves and known wolves,” said a law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation. “A lone wolf is someone who comes out of the woodwork; a known wolf is on your radar.”

The other article profiles the young suspects, including their lifestyles and relationships. It also tells of Saidakhmetov's interest in online IS videos:

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