Radical Nuns and Conservative Bishops

Within the world of religion reporting—that is, reporting on religion—the story of the week, if not the summer, has been the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Primates. Held every ten years, the meeting gathers members of the global Anglican Communion in Canterbury, England, the Communion's titular home, for consultation, collaboration and fellowship.

Someone living in a cave, totally unplugged from all forms of media, might not know that this year's meeting was shadowed by talk of schism. Many bishops from the developing world (the global South) are outraged by the growing acceptance of homosexuality among the Episcopal Church in the United States and similarly liberal Anglican outposts.  The 2003 decision by the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire to ordain an openly gay man as bishop brought their dissatisfaction to a crisis point.

Since the Conference ended Sunday August 3, you can read scores of blogs, articles and analyses of what did and did not happen at Lambeth. As you pick and choose among these, check out an article in America, the Jesuits' weekly magazine.

Writing from a Catholic perspective, Austen Iverleigh opines that the problem is ecclesiological not doctrinal, and commends Archbishop Rowan Williams' attempts to hold the communion together. This is in contrast to opinions from the two “sides” which tend to paint Williams as an appeaser at best, but more often as a coward.

For most Americans—hyper-individualistic to a fault—the idea of sacrificing for a greater good is not a natural turn of mind. But Iverleigh raises significant questions about what the purpose of organized religion should and could be.

Religion's social role—one that we're more comfortable commenting on here—is more explicit in other stories this week. Consider religion and science: “Religion may have helped protect ancient humans from disease,” according to a new report by two scientists from the University of New Mexico. “Although religion apparently is for establishing a social marker of group alliance and allegiance, at the most fundamental level, it may be for the avoidance and management of infectious diseases.”

That would be news to many in Hollywood who, whether from the left or the right, consider religion an infectious disease. The Weekly Standard has an in-depth story about a new movie from a conservative director that has a new spin on religious liberals. (If the writer, Stephen F. Hayes is correct, conservatives in Hollywood are about as rare as collectivists in the Anglican Communion.) David Zucker, the auteur behind Airplane! and The Naked Gun! Is finishing up a film that makes fun of Michael Moore, lefties and opponents of the war on terror. This may not sound like a premise for a comedy but it does have some big names and, according to Hayes, big laughs. For example:

“In the film, a rotund comedian named Rosie O'Connell makes an appearance on The O'Reilly Factor to promote her documentary, The Truth About Radical Christians. O'Reilly shows a clip, which opens with a pair of nuns walking through an airport—as seen from pre-hijacking surveillance video—before boarding the airplane. Once onboard, they storm the cockpit using crucifixes as their weapon of choice. Next the documentary looks at the growing phenomena of nuns as suicide bombers, seeking 72 virgins in heaven.”

If you're scratching your head, maybe it's time to return to old-fashioned, follow-the-money journalism. That's not something you find a lot of in religion coverage, mostly because the money is so hard to find. That's why Erik Gorski's recent piece on televangelist Kenneth Copeland is a stand-out. Gorski is following up on Sen. Charles Grassley's Senate Finance Committee investigation of financial accountability at six evangelical ministries. He deserves kudos for a job well done.

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