Category Archives: Religion and the Public Sphere

Ubuntu Spirit’s New Outlet

It’s been my joy to write about religion and spread religious proficiency through the Ubuntu Spirit blog over the past few years and more and more people have come to appreciate it as a source for religion news and literacy.

Since May 2011 I started writing for the Houston Chronicle’s online religion news service – Houston Belief. My blog there, Sacred Duty, mirrors Ubuntu Spirit and engages with the same topics and news. I encourage you to visit Sacred Duty, continue reading about religion and to join the conversation!

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Religious Liberties

*Originally posted at my Houston Chronicle Belief Blog – Sacred Duty

There was much fanfare and excitement over the passage of New York’s same-sex marriage bill last week. Supporters of the gay rights movement and homosexuals across the nation celebrated as the most populous state yet to pass legislation allowing for gay marriages took what they say is a major step in the journey towards national recognition of their rights. However, the legislation almost did not come to pass. As ABC News and other sources reported the vote hung in the balance as New York Republicans fought for protections for religious institutions. At stake were the rights of religious institutions who wanted the freedom to stick to their beliefs regarding homosexuality and not be forced to condone or assist marriages they do not support.

While such beliefs may not by indicative of wider trends in American society (see “Why Religious Conservatives Aren’t Winning the Same-Sex Marriage Debate”) they are to be protected like any other right. Why? Because the rights of religions and religious institutions are just as important as the rights of any other individual or organization.

The free practice of religion and the right to free speech are foundational principles in the United States. They often are the most pressing issues for religious institutions sometimes caught on both sides of the coin when it comes to these rights. While the rights of same-sex individuals were obviously in the forefront of this debate, the rights of religious institutions cannot be forgotten nor forsaken.

Another case in Houston, TX makes this point most poignant. The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the director of the Houston National Cemetery are under fire from local Houston veterans associations for stripping individuals of their right to free speech, specifically in the form of religious prayers at funerals. Juan Lozano of the Houston Chronicle reported:

on at least four occasions in the last two months, VA officials told them that prayer and religious speech could no longer be included in burial rituals they take part in at the Houston cemetery unless families submit a specific prayer or message in writing to Arleen Ocasio, the cemetery’s director.

Those taking issue with Ocasio claim that she does not permit any use of the words “God” or “Jesus Christ” in these prayers. Furthermore, it is claimed that a group was forced to remove the words “God Bless” from condolence cards passed out at the service.

A lawsuit is being filed and the affair is garnering national attention as Texas 2nd District Representative Ted Poe wrote for Fox News calling for a correction of this injustice. In the piece Rep. Poe writes, “The government’s attack on the very freedoms that [the veterans] lived and died for is a blatant violation of the freedom of speech and free exercise of religion promised to all Americans in the Constitution.” He could not be more right.

Although religious institutions and their constituents may often be seen as close-minded, conservative and on the “wrong-side” of recent freedom/rights debates they are still American and thus are entitled to the same rights as everyone else.  There is no reason to strip religious adherents or organizations (be they Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish etc.) of their rights or have the government force them to downplay their beliefs as expressed in religious rites such as weddings and funerals. Therefore, while the nation celebrates July 4th this weekend and many laud a victory for the rights of same-sex couples in New York, we should all call for the protection of the rights of religious institutions and individuals here in Houston. No matter your belief, or lack thereof, you cannot deny that religious rights are just as important as any other fundamental American liberties.

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Why Religious Conservatives Aren’t Winning the Same-Sex Marriage Debate

*Originally posted at Sacred Duty.

You may not have heard, but New York passed a small bill concerning same-sex marriages this week. A few people reported on it.

Note. Sarcasm. Here.

In the words of San Diego’s finest, Ron Burgundy, the news is “kind of a big deal.”

No doubt you, the reader, heard that New York passed a bill in favor of same-sex marriage. No doubt you read articles in favor of the bill and against it. No doubt your opinion was already formed before the news broke. No doubt your opinion will not change after reading this blog, or any other blog for that matter. Your opinion is already formed based on your cultural perspective and interpretation of the Bible.

One such pre-formed opinion came from Professor Lee Jefferson of Centre College who wrote a popular article entitled “What Does the Bible Actually Say About Gay Marriage?” for the Huffington Post. In it he contends that, “the Bible is a complicated collection of documents that was never meant to ‘speak’ to our contemporary situation” and that opponents to same-sex marriage misinterpret the Bible as they use Scripture to decry marriage for homosexuals and fight to “maintain the sanctity of marriage.” Jefferson goes on to make four succinct points, asserting that: 1) the institution of marriage is a secular and social institution, 2) the Bible does not clearly endorse one form of marriage over another, 3) the Biblical arguments against same-sex marriage are not proffered from texts that deal with marriage, but from texts that purportedly deal with marriage and 4) any reference to same-sex practice by a Biblical writer or a Greco-Roman writer has no knowledge or understanding of the concept of “same-sex orientation.” He concludes by saying:

The Bible is not specific, literate, or even concerned with what we call same-sex orientation or gay marriage. But the state of New York recently had quite a lot to say about gay marriage. Those that would insert the Bible into this debate would do well to reflect upon the text itself. If only we quit focusing on what the Bible didactically “says” and converse with the text in its broader cultural context. Then one can realize the multivalent value of such a book that a narrow reading cannot service.

To say the least, there are conservative pundits and preachers who disagree with Mr. Jefferson.

The conservative exposition that Prof. Jefferson has in his sights as he writes this article is promulgated by theologians citing Leviticus 18: 22, 24; 20: 13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 as speaking of homosexuality as a sin. Furthermore, conventional Christian scholars refer to Genesis 1:27-28; 2:24 and Matthew 1:24-25 to out forth the Christian ideal of marriage between a man and a woman. Their interpretation of these texts leads to them to denounce the movement to legitimize homosexual relationships, vote against expanding the marriage rights of same-sex couples and disparage moves like that of the New York legislature.

My theological interpretations and opinions aside, I believe that the whole debate regarding homosexual marriage, same-sex partnerships and whether or not Christian Scripture speaks to the issue in a clear-cut way reveals a lot more about the state of America’s religious climate in regards to sociology and interpretation of the Bible (hermeneutics), than it does on gay marriage or the Christian Scriptures themselves. In fact, I believe it is because of a sociological shift and contemporary Biblical scholarship like Jefferson’s that leads to defeat for religious conservatives on the issue of same-sex marriage.

First, the sociological development. Following an ever secularizing trend in American society the general opinion regarding homosexuality has taken a progressive turn. While this shift occurred most markedly in younger demographics, the general trend has been towards more leniency when it comes to homosexuality and same-sex marriages (see a General Social Survey from 2008). Given time, those with a favorable opinion of homosexuality and same-sex marriages will soon be in the majority.

There is also the hermeneutical shift to appreciate. At the heart of Prof. Jefferson’s article is the concept of whether or not the Bible speaks to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Regardless of his final exposition of the source, Jefferson shows his cards to the reader in the second paragraph when he directly discloses that he believes the Bible does not speak into the contemporary scene. This is his interpretational principle. Along with Jonathan Dudley, a graduate of Yale Divinity School and guest blogger at CNN’s Belief Blog, Jefferson locks the Bible (and subsequently its proclamations) into its original cultural context. By their belief, the Bible cannot speak into the contemporary situation. It is a historical document to be understood within its own context, and not interpreted for life today. The contemporary situation acts back and interprets the Bible on its own terms, not the other way around. Such a hermeneutic is ever more popular this day and age. As is well documented in texts like The History of Biblical Interpretation: A Reader and bemoaned by conservative Christian scholars, the modern Biblical hermeneutic is far more liberal than it was in the past.

Jefferson is absolutely correct when he opines that his interpretation does little to “satisfy any opponent of gay rights or of same-sex marriage to any degree.” Particularly if the opponent is coming from a conservative Biblical background. Conventional Christian scholarship reads the Old and New Testament texts as if they are meant to speak both to their original audience and to the contemporary scene. Their interpretational principle is that the Bible is meant for all ages and its words are binding both in the past, present and future. Thus, when they read passages from Genesis, Leviticus, Romans or 1 Corinthians they believe that they speak as much today as they did then. From such a viewpoint they are able to apply the Bible’s morality to contemporary situations, and in the case of homosexuality such a hermeneutical principle clearly reveals the Christian Scriptures as condemning homosexuality as a sin and marriage as meant for a man and a woman. With such an interpretation they take their moral maxim from the pulpit to the pew, from the pew to the home, from the home to the streets and from the streets to the halls of congress.

Before the debate even begins, the juxtaposed sides are coming from two very different starting points. It makes sense that conservatives and progressives disagree when interpreting the Bible and judging the validity of same-sex marriage because neither of them can agree to view the issues through the same lens. And because of the power of culture and sociology there is little that can be done at the moment to change tac. Thus, while Jefferson and his compatriots preach to the “sociologically and hermeneutically converted,” conservative religious pundits preach their sermons to their own converted, organizing rallies and voting vehemently for conservative political candidates in line with their moral stances. All the while, the conservative religious voice on social issues such as homosexuality (and sexuality in general) diminishes more and more into the background.

Currently, liberal sociological and interpretational trends are trumping the conservative hermeneutic and essays like Jefferson’s are indicative of a wider, and well documented, liberal trend in contemporary Biblical scholarship. Thus, while state legislatures may soon pass bills in favor, or against, same-sex marriage, a rising tide of favorable opinion towards homosexuality and against conservative readings of the Bible is not likely to abate anytime soon. Because of this, those who hold to more traditional sexual values and conventional readings of the Christian Scripture will, at least for now, find themselves on the losing side of this sociological, political and theological struggle.

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Religious Ink

*Originally posted at my Houston Chronicle Belief Blog – Sacred Duty

Tattoo Bans, Religious Expression and the Staying Power of Religious Body Art

Earlier this month Thailand’s Culture Minister Niphit Intharasombat sparked national controversy when he proposed a ban on all religiously motivated tattoos. A major tourist industry in Thailand, especially in Phuket, purveyors of tattoo art and religious symbols fought against the prescription. Arguing that such a ban would hurt their business the Ministry of Culture backpedalledslightly, allowing tattoos, even religiously motivated ones, could continue to be made as long as they did not include Buddhist symbols. Behind the prohibition is the idea that tattooing bodies with Buddhist symbols is insolent, culturally insensitive and potentially disrespectful. The Ministry feared that individuals with the tattoos might be found performing inappropriate activities and bearing a religious tattoo on their body might cause offense. People from all over the world come to get religious tattoos in Phuket and other provinces in Thailand whether they be Buddhist, Hindu, New Age or Christian. Some believe the tattoos endow a person with spiritual power, with certain individuals claiming that their tattoos save their lives.

To say the least the row over religious tattoos in Thailand is not soon to dissipate. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the industry of religious tattoos is not unique to Thailand or the Southeast Asian region. All over the world Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, New Agers, Pagans, Druids, Jews and other religious adherents get tattoos to represent their religion.

There are prescriptions against tattoos in various religions including Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism to name a few. In the Abrahamic religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity) it is seen as polluting God’s perfect creation of the human body. Some Theravada Buddhist monasteries will not allow tattooed individuals to take the monastic vow. For the most part such restrictions do little to prevent believers from proclaiming their faith and values with ink in the skin.

It does not take long to find many of the faithful sporting religious ink.

Go to a Christian concert and when a song leader raises their arms I guarantee you will find at least one, tattoo on the arm, if not more. While the arm may be acceptable, and may in a way be a means of making the tattoo less discriminate I went to school with a young man hoping to become a pastor who had a broken chain tattooed around his neck. No matter how hard you try, you can’t hide that type of ink. For Christians the most often tattooed symbol is the cross, Mary, a Trinity symbol, a dove representing the Holy Spirit or some word in ancient Greek or Hebrew (original languages of the Bible). Among Millennial Christians, the practice is becoming more and more common with tattoos showing up on wrists, arms, legs, backs and shoulders.

But what about the face?

The Maori people of New Zealand have a long standing tradition of tattooing (in the past, chiseling) the face of individuals with high social status. “Ta moko,” as they are called, are imbibed with great sacred meaning and often tell the story of an individual’s whakapapa (genealogy). While Maori designs have become fashionable, and controversial, as of late on many pakeha (non-Maori caucasians – including British pop star Robbie Williams) the original designs were meant for sacred purposes and revered members of a Maori tribe.

In Buddhism the recent prevalence of so called “dharma” tattoos has stirred some debate. While some believe these tattoos become an extension of their Buddhist practice and lead them towards mindful meditation in their everyday life opponents of such tattoos claim they are an aberration and indicative of a mindless “pop” Buddhism. Particularly in Theravada Buddhism tattoos can bar one from taking a monastic vow. For example, Angelina Jolie caused a stir when she went under the ink pen to receive a Buddhist Pali incantation tattoo in Khmer as a reminder of her adopted son’s Cambodian heritage.

Hindus, specifically many Asian-Indians, are known for their beautiful henna tattoos observable on Hindu brides. However, many modern day Hindus are getting inked up with the image of their chosen deity as a sign of their bhakti (devotion). The most popular representations seem to be images of Ganesh, the destroyer of obstacles.

Various other religiously themed tattoos can be found on people’s bodies. From Judeo-Christian symbols to Pentagrams to Buddhist mandalas, many religious adherents choose to proclaim some aspect of their faith or practice through body art. Though the symbols may fade with time, or cause a commotion today, they are ultimately simple and yet strong expressions of personal devotion. In a recent article by Miliann Kang and Katherine Jones in the e-zine New Tattoo Sub-Culture they share:

The tattoo speaks to the ongoing, complex need for humans to express themselves through the appearance of their bodies. The tattooed body serves as a canvas to record the struggles between conformity and resistance, power and victimization, individualism and group membership. These struggles motivate both radical and mundane forms of tattooing. The popularity of tattoos attests to their power as vehicles for self-expression, commemoration, community building, and social commentary. At the same time, the tattoo’s messages are limited by misin- terpretation and the stigma that still attaches to tattooed people.

Without entering into a full-fledged discussion of religious aesthetics and meaningful religious iconography, religious tattoos serve as powerful vehicles for self-expression and whether they are beautiful or boring, contentious or cool, they act as an interpretive tool for people to understand religion, their own or others’. All religious art serves a dual purpose as a hermeneutic of a theological truth (for the artist, or the inked) and as a window through which outside observers interpret a religion and its adherents. In the end, religious tattoos, just like a Christian fresco or an artistically scribed Qu’ran, serve as interpretive vehicles through which humans give voice to their religious devotion and allow others to apprehend religious truth through art.

In the case of religious tattoos in Thailand the Culture Minister does have a point; religious tattoos will bring about interpretations, and misinterpretations, of Buddhism and other religions in Thailand and abroad. The real question is whether or not Thailand’s government, or any religious authority for that matter, can stop such a potent form of religious self-expression. Combining “an ongoing, complex need for humans to express themselves through the appearance of their bodies” with a strong religious devotion and offering the inked a way to convey and interpret their faith, religious ink seems to be permanently tattooed as a feature of religious art and expressionism.

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Texans Love Their Crosses

*This is a repost from my Houston Chronicle Belief Blog – A Sacred Duty 

At a Drops Like Stars event in Tempe, AZ evangelical speaker Rob Bell asked how many people in the crowd were wearing crosses. A little over half the crowd raised their hands. Bell wondered aloud why it is that so many people wear ancient symbols of torture, pain and death such as the cross. It was a fair enough question.

Bell offered the explanation that it has to do with the art of solidarity; that God sent Jesus into the world to scream alongside of us. He says in book form, “This is why for thousands of years Christians have found the cross to be so central to life. It speaks to us of God’s suffering, God’s pain, God’s broken heart. It’s God making the first move and then waiting for our response.” For Bell and, as he argues, many Christians the cross is a symbol of redemption through suffering. Jesus suffering with us, redeeming that suffering and standing in solidarity with all of humanity that screams out in this present darkness.

So the cross serves as a symbol of suffering and pain, but also one of victory and redemption.

Then there are crosses in Texas.

In Texas, crosses are, well, odd and fascinating pieces of art.

Since moving to Texas some ten months ago I’ve seen more crosses than I’ve seen anywhere else in the entire world (albeit I’ve not yet been to the Lithuanian hill of crosses). In every boutique, on living room walls and diamond studded on tee shirts, hats and women’s hand bags there are crosses of varying sizes and carrying assorted messages.

Britannica encyclopedia states that religious iconography, or symbolism, serves religious communities with “basic and often complex artistic forms…to convey religious concepts and…[to represent] religious ideas and events.” As a religious symbol, the cross has remained a strong sign of Christianity throughout the ages conveying the Christian belief in the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth and testifying to their concept of redemption for humanity through that suffering. The art of the cross is a wide and diverse stream and the cross has been transformed and translated throughout the ages to speak in new ways to new people for various contexts. I’ve experienced this first hand. While traveling around the world my wife and I amassed a diverse array of crosses with a sundry of forms, crafted from a myriad of media and reflecting each culture’s unique take on Jesus and the cross.

In Texas the cross has taken on a whole new form reflecting both Texas’ strong belief in its “Christian heritage” and its rough-and-tumble independence. Thus, in Texan shops and homes you’ll find crosses made out of leather belts replete with belt buckles at the apex, a cross with the state of Texas smack dab in the middle with words like “reign of God,” “LORD God Sabaoth” and other militaristic/kingdom oriented words from Scripture etched into the frame, a cross made from cowboy rope, a cross studded with turquoise or diamonds or the ubiquitous barbed wire and star cross with barbed wire wrapped around a cross of rough wood and christened with a texas star in the middle and a horse shoe to boot

Texas is Texas that’s for sure.

When you meet people and ask where they are from native Texans respond with pride telling you that they are from Houston, Austin, Dallas, Odessa, Lubbock or Midland. For those not from Texas the standard line is, “I’m not from Texas, but I got here as fast I could.” Texans support their respective colleges and universities with unabashed loyalty and a hint of hubris. They believe in the Texas ideal and flirt with secession. The Lone Star Republic still means something to Texans and so the large tri-color flag flies right next to the American flag with patriotic zeal. In Texas, BBQ and Tex-Mex are sacramentally akin to the bread and wine of Christian communion and on Friday the football stadium is church.

Texans garner these attitudes and convictions from a history of rugged independence and pride of roots formed on ranches and fields bringing forth cotton, cattle and oil.

Unsurprisingly, such perspectives find themselves reflected in Texas cross art.

If, in general, the cross is a symbol of suffering and an icon of redemption and victory through pain and death then in Texas the cross serves as a symbol of freedom, ingenuity, rough-and-tumble independence and strength.

When religious scholars and leaders suppose the cross to be a symbol of suffering and by association, a sign of humility, their hypothesis does not stick when reviewing the crosses of Texas.

Every cross in Texas is imposing or impressive or both. In that way they reveal something telling about Texan Christianity, and in some ways, Texan religion in general.

It’s loud, it’s proud and it is undeniably Texan.

This forces us to ask, “what hath the cross of Texas to do with the cross of Golgotha?”

Certainly, Texas crosses acknowledge the suffering, but associate it with their own hard fought road to freedom and glory (notice the rough hewn wood, the dark colors and the barbed wire). More than any other country or cultural context I’ve witnessed, they add a strong dash of pride to their cross. In some way, this pride might even come to overshadow the humble carpenter’s son from Jesus who Christians claim died on a cross almost 2,000 years ago.

In another way, it reminds us that the cross of Texas is less a symbol of a religion and more an icon of a culture – a distinctively Texan culture where every cowboy, rancher, service man or woman, football player, student, oil refiner or engineer is meant to be hard working, independent and faithful to God, family and Texas.

Viewed in such a light it makes perfect sense for every cross to bear a belt buckle, some bling, a little barbed wire or a boot. For more than speaking to God’s suffering and Jesus’ redemption of the world through his own pain and death, the cross in Texas conveys a culture’s pride in fortunes won through blood, sweat and tears and reveals a cultural ideal of faith in God and country.

Therefore, if you visit Texas you will find the cross proudly displayed in homes, in shops, in restaurants, on trucks and in fashion. After all, if Texans brazenly fly their flag they expectedly brandish their cross as well as a sign of what it truly means to be Texan.

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Young Americans Less Religious…For Now

Read the original post at Ken’s Blog for the Houston Chronicle – Sacred Duty

According to a recent Gallup poll, if you were to run into a liberal-independent male doctor from, say, New York who is 29 years old, there is a slightly higher chance that he is an atheist.

Good to know right?

Right.

But what to make of it?

Various news agencies and religious commentators are making different observations concerning the findings of the recent Gallup poll on belief in God. According to their statistical survey, liberals are less likely to believe in God or a supernatural being than conservatives, independents less likely than Republicans or Democrats, people living in the East less than the West, North or South, males less than females, younger people less than older people, postgraduate educated individuals than those with high school or less.

The real “discovery” is, despite the differences, Americans are still fervently full of belief and, by proxy, intensely religious.

For the sake of this article I want to keep this point in mind while focusing on the greatest statistical gap that the Gallup poll recorded – the 10 point difference between 18 to 29 year olds and every other age group. According to the survey done by Gallup, only 84% of Young Americans between the ages of 18 to 29 believe in God or a universal spirit, while among people 30 or older 94% believe.

This may strike many readers as a major generational shift occurring between the Baby Boomers/Generation X and the so-called Millennials (Generation Y) and to a point, it is definitely something that religious leaders and observers should take note of.

However, I think it is important to keep in mind the characteristics of the Millennials when interpreting Gallup’s, and other survey’s, data regarding Generation Y’s belief in God and their subsequent faith and religiosity.

According to a Pew Forum report on Millennials, they are, as a group, generally less interested in money and religion and more concerned with family and friendship. They are comfortable with technology and enjoy communication. They are less defined by racial boundaries and more open to other world views. While they value family they aren’t rushing to the altar, and many of them (nearly 80%) remain single into their late twenties.

What is important to note is that yes, Millennials are less likely to believe in the divine or an ultimate deity and that they are less religious, but that this fact might change in the near future as they grow older, settle down and have a family. As Robert Putnam and David Campbell note in their tome on contemporary religion, American Grace, there is a difference between generational change and lifetime change. What we may be seeing here is a mixture of both. While the Millennials will probably believe less than their parents (Baby Boomers) and their older siblings (Generation X) the difference will not be as striking (10 percentage points) once they grow up a little more.

Many religious statisticians and observers note that belief in God and participation in religion increase once individuals settle down, get married and have a family. Life cycle changes generally trend towards more religiosity as individuals get older. Thus, we can expect that Millennials, currently in the 18-29 range, will be slightly more religious and, by association, more believing in their later years with another decade of growth.

In addition to this sociological progression, there is also an immigrant influx of believing young people from the Southern and Eastern world to consider. As Philip Jenkins notes in his work The Next Christendom, people from Central and South America, Africa and many nations in Asia are much more religious (not just Christian) and that this has major implications for Europe and America as it pertains to immigration of such individuals to the U.S.A. Since they are moving here and the Millennial generation itself seems to be more ethnically diverse and open to other world-views, such an immigration shift may impact Millennial belief patterns.

While I don’t believe there will be a major change in their religious practice or belief in God, I think we have yet to see just how believing and religious the Millennials will be when they are in their 30s and 40s. In the end, I believe that their belief and religiosity will rise a few percentage points and that America will continue, for another generation, to be fervently religious.

Furthermore, it is one thing to discuss the amount of Millennials’ belief and religiosity and another thing entirely to discuss the content of their faith and practice. What we can infer from their general characteristics is that being more open, being better educated, being more ready to communicate and dialogue with others, being more oriented towards the family and being less partisan than generations that came before them the 84% or more of them that do believe and put their belief into practice will be much more open minded when it comes to the religious other. In addition, they will continue to be wary of religion as it is associated with religiously conservative politics (although as they grow older, Millennials may turn out to be more “conservative” politically than they once were given that older family men and women tend to be more conservative in their politics as well).

Rather than being bad news for the future, this may very well come as a “sigh of relief” to many Americans and other, less religious, countries who often associate America’s propensity for religious belief and practice with stubbornness, close-mindedness and ignorance when it comes to the religious other.

For now, Millennials aren’t quite as religious or believing as their generational predecessors, but that may change given time. I’ll get back to you after Gallup releases its statistics from surveys regarding belief in 2021; then we can see if I was right. In the meantime, it is best for the general populous to not pigeonhole this generation of believers and non-believers, we may yet surprise you.

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New Venues for Spreading Religious Literacy

I truly enjoy exploring other religions, sharing experiences and information with others and learning through dialogue, discussion and direct exposure.

That’s why I am so excited about some recent opportunities that arose for greater dissemination of Ubuntu Spirit’s exploration of religion, religion and culture and religious literacy.

This week a piece I wrote about the Confession App was published in conjunction with the Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion at the University of Chicago in their Sightings Publication. Take a look at the article on the Sightings site.

Likewise this week, I was offered to join the blogging team at Houston Belief, the religious arm of the Houston Chronicle and its blogs. I am working with the site’s producer to discuss the tone of the blog, but it will be very much like the Ubuntu Spirit blog and cover religion in general, religion in Houston and religion as it interacts with culture, politics and the public sphere. From time-to-time my pieces will (hopefully) be published in the Houston Chronicle newspaper.

One element of this new opportunity is a new, more easily grasped, title for the blog. I have a few thoughts, but do you, the readers, have any suggestions? Please leave them in the comments section below and I will let you know when the transition happens.

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