It would appear first UK 'same-sex Muslim wedding' featured nice clothes and that's that

It would appear first UK 'same-sex Muslim wedding' featured nice clothes and that's that

If your GetReligionistas have said it once, we have said it a thousand times since we opened our digital doors 13 years ago: There is no one, monolithic Islam.

Thus, there is no one Muslim "Tradition," with a big-T. There is no Muslim Vatican or college of cardinals. There is no conference that speaks with one voice, like the annual gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention. There is no Islamic equivalent of the global Anglican Lambeth Conference (which, come to think of it, doesn't speak for all Anglicans these days).

With that in mind, let's ponder this: What makes a "Muslim wedding" a real Muslim wedding?

This question is not easy to answer, since in Islam weddings do not have the same kind of sacramental significance that they have, let's say, in Christianity. But two things appear to be clear and they create a kind of creative tension linked to this subject.

(1) When people talk about Islamic wedding traditions they often discuss fine details -- clothing, rituals, social events, even the amount of religious content -- linked to the culture in which the rite is taking place.

(2) In Islam, weddings have strong legal, as opposed to sacramental, implications. The key is that the rite creates a relationship that is viewed as legally binding in a Muslim community. Thus, it is a Muslim wedding.

With that in mind, consider this Time magazine headline: "This History-Making Couple Just Had One of the U.K.'s First Same-Sex Muslim Weddings." Here is the heart of this short story:

Newlyweds Jahed Choudhury and Sean Rogan are helping make history in the U.K., which legalized same-sex marriage in 2013.

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Hey, kids! What's missing from Los Angeles news reports about Buddha statue's vandalism?

 Hey, kids! What's missing from Los Angeles news reports about Buddha statue's vandalism?

Not to encourage the mistreatment of any animal, but from time to time the phrase, "It's like shooting fish in a barrel" pops up when the GetReligion team discusses (via email) a given story.

The news this week about an apparently very misguided individual vandalizing a statue of the Buddha that was placed in a Los Angeles traffic median is, I believe, very much one of those kinds of stories. Spotting the key journalistic issue here is just like taking aim at the proverbial barrel-dwelling fish.

Some background first, however. There is a little piece of pavement (some call it a traffic "island," others call it a "median") in the Palms neighborhood on the west side of Los Angeles, not far from where your correspondent spent seven very happy years living in Marina del Rey. (I miss that neighborhood, and the adjacent Venice Beach, greatly.)

The traffic island triangle became a dumping ground for sofas and other debris until -- as both the Los Angeles Times and the local CBS Los Angeles TV affiliate report (video above) -- someone placed a concrete statue of the Buddha there. Take it away, LA Times:

The stone statue, raised on a large planter, prevented people from dumping bulky items at the traffic island. It’s unknown whether that was the intent, but neighbors embraced the Buddha, dropping off roses, daisies and other types of flowers.
“It really rallied the community, and people started taking care of the Buddha,” [Motor Ave. Improvement Association director Lee] Wallach said.

The neighborhood Nirvana didn't last long, however:

All was peaceful in the Los Angeles neighborhood until one evening last month, when a man in a white sedan pulled over, got out and used a sledgehammer to decapitate the statue. Wallach said two people witnessed the incident but were unable to write down a license plate number.
“He was heard yelling about Al Qaeda and Muslim extremism and things of that nature,” he said. “I think this gentleman is a little confused and obviously a little violent. It's important we find him, educate him and help him.”
The crime left residents stunned.

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This opioid addiction recovery program relies on the 12 steps. So why didn't Washington Post mention God?

This opioid addiction recovery program relies on the 12 steps. So why didn't Washington Post mention God?

We're going to do a little opioid-related ghostbusting today.

As regular GetReligion readers know, our journalism-focused website is built on the premise that "millions of Americans who frequent pews see ghosts when they pick up their newspapers or turn on television news.

"They read stories that are important to their lives, yet they seem to catch fleeting glimpses of other characters or other plots between the lines. There seem to be other ideas or influences hiding there," editor Terry Mattingly wrote when GetReligion launched in 2004. 

"One minute they are there. The next they are gone. There are ghosts in there, hiding in the ink and the pixels. Something is missing in the basic facts or perhaps most of the key facts are there, yet some are twisted. Perhaps there are sins of omission, rather than commission.

"A lot of these ghosts are, well, holy ghosts. They are facts and stories and faces linked to the power of religious faith. Now you see them. Now you don’t. In fact, a whole lot of the time you don’t get to see them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there."

Many of our faithful readers have become quite adept at spotting these ghosts and sharing them with us.

Today's tip comes via email from a reader who is a long-term member of a 12-step program. It relates to this recent story from the Washington Post.

The Post's compelling opening:

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Anglicans OK casual-dress liturgical option: Did The Guardian know this is part of an old war?

Anglicans OK casual-dress liturgical option: Did The Guardian know this is part of an old war?

As a rule, your GetReligionistas critique religion-beat stories in the mainstream press when journalists get something really right or really wrong. Often we simply note the presence of "religion ghosts" in stories, our term for a religion-shaped hole in the content that makes it hard for readers to know what is going on.

On weekends, I often point readers toward "think pieces" linked to religion-beat trends and issues -- essays, op-ed page columns, etc. -- that we wouldn't normally feature, because of our emphasis on basic news reporting.

The following piece from The Guardian -- "Clergy to ditch their robes in further sign of dress-down Britain" -- is a little bit of all of this.

First, it's a news piece about a highly symbolic and rather edgy decision made by the Church of England. Second, it contains material that -- think-piece style -- points to larger trends in England. Finally, while the story is pretty solid, it does contain an important hole that editors could have filled with a few sentences of content by a religion-beat pro who knew what she or he was doing.

The overture does a great job of putting this church decision in a wider cultural context:

First it was ties in parliament, now it is surplices at communion.
Following Speaker John Bercow’s decision last month to relax the convention requiring male MPs to wear jackets and ties in parliament, the Church of England is to allow clergy to conduct services in civvies.
The C of E’s ruling body, the synod, meeting in York, has given final approval to a change in canon law on “the vesture of ordained and authorised ministers during the time of divine service”. The measure needs to be approved by the Queen, who swapped her crown for a hat at last month’s state opening of parliament in another sign of dress-down Britain.

So what, pray tell, is a "surplice"? What are "vestments"?

This is where The Guardian team needed to add a few extra sentences. For starters, the editors seemed to think that all Christian bodies are branches on the same tree, when it comes to traditions about liturgical details. Instead, this latest Anglican innovation is yet another sign of a church body moving toward Protestant influences and away from it's ties to ancient Catholic and Orthodox traditions.

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Christian Century does winning profile of Catholic cleric who 'steals' Protestant evangelism tricks

Christian Century does winning profile of Catholic cleric who 'steals' Protestant evangelism tricks

I’ve only been to Halifax once and the visit was brief. But Atlantic Canada, as that section of the country is called, is not exactly known as a revival center and the province of Quebec next door is a graveyard for churches.

Thus, I was surprised to find a piece in the Christian Century about an enterprising Catholic priest who cheerfully admits to stealing church-growth ideas from evangelical American Protestants. His primary instrument is the Anglican evangelistic program Alpha.

These ideas aren’t entirely new, as charismatic Catholics have been appropriating Protestant methods since the 1970s. But this time, the institutional church is taking notice.

As the article begins:

"Do you know what amazes me about Father Mallon’s book?” I said to Pavel Reid, head of outreach for the Archdiocese of Vancouver. Reid had just told me that Catholic dioceses across Canada were using Mallon’s book Divine Renovation as a guide to parish renewal.
“Let me guess,” said Reid. “That he stole it all from the Protestants?”
Precisely.
James Mallon, pastor of Saint Benedict Parish in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was recently named vicar for parish renewal throughout Canada. He has fielded more than 150 speaking requests since the 2014 publication of Divine Renovation, a book that has gone through multiple printings and been translated into French and Spanish. Divine Renovation and its sequel, Divine Renovation Guidebook (2016), are full of insights from people such as Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, and Andy Stanley, and from the Alpha course, an Anglican evangelization video series. Mallon jokes that he subscribes to the CASE method—“copy and steal everything.” And it’s mostly Protestant practices that he’s been stealing.

If you can’t beat them, join them?

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This is why some Catholics are questioning media reporting on gluten-free communion

This is why some Catholics are questioning media reporting on gluten-free communion

What's new?

That's Catholic media professional Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz's question. In an email to GetReligion, Szyszkiewicz writes:

The gluten-free host bit is old. The regulations have been in place for years and, for some reason, were raised again, this time by Pope Francis. 
Cardinal Sarah's letter is almost entirely made up of quotes from previous documents and nothing more. It's obvious that the journalists who reported on this didn't read the text to see that it's a rehash — or they didn't care about that fact. 
So what's the purpose of the reporting? To make the Vatican look like a bunch of bad guys who don't give a damn about celiacs?

What reporting is Szyszkiewicz talking about?

Here's the lede from the New York Times:

The unleavened bread that Roman Catholics use in the celebration of Mass must contain some gluten, even if only a trace amount, according to a new Vatican directive.
The directive, which was dated June 15 but received significant attention only after it was reported by Vatican Radio on Saturday, affirms an existing policy. But it may help to relieve some of the confusion surrounding church doctrine on gluten, a protein that occurs naturally in wheat and has become the subject of debates over nutrition and regulation.
The issue is especially urgent for people with celiac disease, a gastrointestinal immune disorder that causes stomach paindiarrhea and weight loss and that can lead to serious complications, or for those with other digestive conditions that make them vulnerable even to small amounts of gluten.
Many other people who do not have celiac disease may nonetheless have a sensitivity or allergy to gluten, and yet others have adopted a gluten-free diet in the belief that it is healthier — although science is far from clear on this point.

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Pastor of America's largest parish retires, with lots of (solo) shots at Catholic conservatives

Pastor of America's largest parish retires, with lots of (solo) shots at Catholic conservatives

A long time ago -- the early 1980s -- I wrote a front-page feature for The Charlotte Observer about life in the tiny Catholic Diocese of Charlotte. The news hook was an interview with the first bishop of what was, at that time, America's smallest diocese.

Things have changed in the Queen City, when it comes to Catholic life. In fact, if you follow news about American Catholicism you know that one of the most important stories is the explosion of Catholic statistics in the Bible Belt, including the Deep South and the Southeast. The rising Catholic tide in the Southwest is, to a large degree, linked with issues of immigration. That's a factor in the South, but the growth is also linked to large numbers of converts and transplants from the North.

Just the other day, Crux ran little story -- "In the U.S. South, the Church is in ‘growth mode’ " -- focusing on a meeting of bishops from the South. It noted:

“We are all in a growth mode. That’s a good thing,” Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta told the Diocese of Charleston’s newspaper The Catholic Miscellany.
“We are spending part of our time here talking about the need to establish new parishes, expand pastoral outreach, and respond to growing numbers both from immigration and those moving here from other parts of the country,” the archbishop continued. “We all are sharing in this growth.”

So, the Observer recently had a perfect opportunity to dig into some of these complex and important subjects.

The hook for this long story was the retirement of Msgr. John McSweeney, the senior priest at St. Matthew Catholic Church -- America's largest Catholic parish. To add to the symbolism, the lede notes that this New Yorker was the first priest ordained in the Charlotte diocese.

This is where things get interesting. This long, long piece is based on an interview with the outspoken McSweeney and, well, that is that. The bottom line: He is highly critical of many things that would be affirmed by traditional or even middle-of-the-road Catholics in the Bible Belt. As the Observer puts it, he believes the Catholic Church often puts the "Book of Law before the Book of Love."

Who gets to respond to his views on a litany of hot-button topics?

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Sexbots, slavery and The Salvation Army: The Daily Mail explains why it doesn't compute

Sexbots, slavery and The Salvation Army: The Daily Mail explains why it doesn't compute

I don't believe Isaac Asimov, the late science fiction author of the I, Robot series, ever imagined this scenario -- the Salvation Army getting involved in a debate about sex with robots.

The Salvation Army has a long tradition of getting involved in debates that link morality, politics and labor. However, in this case we are talking about a whole different kind of work and, to say the least, a different kind of worker -- "sexbots."

Let's turn to a predictable source of information, Britain's Daily Mail -- a populist source of news if there ever was one.

Headlined "Sexbots will encourage sex to be viewed as a ‘commodity’ and could increase objectification of women and children, warns Salvation Army," we read:

Last week, a report about sex robots warned about the 'dark side' of the technology, which could involve issues of rape and paedophilia.
And now The Salvation Army has had its say on the controversial sexbots.
The charity claims that sex robots could 'fuel demand for sex with people', and even lead traffickers to exploit more vulnerable individuals to meet this demand.

Unlike many of the hair-on-fire reports from this newspaper that have a religion angle, this time, the Daily Mail is relatively restrained, even kind, to the Army's viewpoint. (Disclosure: I was a Salvation Army church member, or "soldier," for 17 years before joining the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and retain a high regard for the organization and its people.)

However, there is a missing bit of journalism in the Daily Mail report, and we'll get to that in a moment.

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Vatican! Drugs! Police! Gay clergy! Orgy! Clickbait! What happens next will not shock you

Vatican! Drugs! Police! Gay clergy! Orgy! Clickbait! What happens next will not shock you

So here is a rather stupid question to ask news consumers in the age of social media and online news. Did you hear that there was apparently some kind of police raid on a drug-fueled gay orgy at one of the most prestigious addresses in Vatican City, an apartment building many call the Holy Office?

All kinds of people live there, but it also is known as home base for the Vatican's powerful -- in terms of working to promote traditional teachings -- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Combine this location with activity that fits years and years of rumors about a "gay lobby" at the highest levels of Catholic hierarchy and the odds are good that you will get a news-media firestorm.

Maybe you saw the story at The New York Daily News, since this is the kind of subject that has "tabloid" written all over it. The headline: "Vatican police raid drug-fueled gay orgy at top priest's apartment." Let's look at the top of this report.

Vatican police raided a drug-fueled gay sex party at a top priest’s apartment near the city, according to an Italian newspaper report.
The apartment’s occupant, who was not named by police, serves as a secretary to Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, a personal adviser to Pope Francis.
The apartment belongs to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith -- the branch that reviews appeals from clergy found guilty of sexual abuse of minors, according to Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, which first published the explosive report. Police raided the apartment in June after neighbors complained of unusual behavior among frequent nighttime visitors.
Police arrested the priest and hospitalized him to detox him from the drugs he had ingested, according to the newspaper. ... He’s currently in retreat at a convent in Italy, according to the report. Coccopalmerio’s aide was reportedly under consideration for promotion to bishop.

Now, you may not have seen the Daily News report. On newsstands in the Big Apple, that would have been sitting right next to The New York Post, proclaiming (it what is a rather restrained headline for this newspaper): "Vatican cops bust drug-fueled gay orgy at home of cardinal’s aide."

Let's face it. Readers had lots of opportunities to see a lurid headline about this case.

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