Bodies in Motion

Weekly round up number two—if you want more Winston follow me on twitter—and this week's all about bodies. No surprises here: lots of sex but also stories on higher ed, Methodists and goats.

The goats hail from Fort Worth, where they're central to Jose Merced's practice of Santeria. In 2006, police stopped Merced from sacrificing a goat, and the case has been in litigation ever since. Last week, a federal appeals court ruled that Merced's first amendment rights had been violated—and he would be able to freely practice his faith. (Check out The Wild Hunt for a modern pagan perspective on this). In 1993, the Supreme Court decided in favor of a Santeria priest in Florida whose ritual practice included animal sacrifice—a ruling that Merced's lawyers used as a precedent.

Follow-up: Local sensitivities are more outraged by religious sacrifice than by killing animals for food or sport (both of which can cause the same health risks for which Merced was busted). Will this case end the debate over animal sacrifice and, more importantly, encourage other groups whose religious practices challenge community norms to seek legal protection?

A new study on religion and higher education may surprise bicoastal atheist elitists: the odds of going to college rise when high school students who say religion is important in their lives. The study also affirmed conventional wisdom about majors that buoy belief and those which are faith busters. If you want to stay the course, take business or education; if you're up for temptation, try humanities and social sciences. Follow-up:  “Postmodernism rather than science, is the bete noir—the strongest antagonist—of religiosity.”

Much ink has been spilt over new policies on gays and lesbians that put the Episcopal Church at odds with the worldwide Anglican convention. Despite the Archbishop of Canterbury's mediation attempts, the American church seems determined to push the issue. This past week, dioceses in Minnesota  and California nominated practicing lesbians and gays as candidates for bishop, flouting the current Anglican ban. (Nominees are presented to local diocese at convention and delegates vote for their choice.)

On Sunday, The Los Angeles Times ran a lengthy editorial on the denomination's recent affirmations. Rather than dismiss the decisions as an internal theological debate, the paper placed them in the context of society's evolving commitment to equality and conclusion—and the concomitant global push back. Said the paper:

“The strides made by the Episcopal Church thus are especially significant, and especially commendable, because they occur against a backdrop of both cultural and religious resistance. Supporters of Proposition 8 weren't the only ones to cloak prejudice with piety.”

In the past, newspapers routinely editorialized on religious matters but since few do now, it's jarring to see the Times opine on a sectarian issue. But this is exactly why the General Convention is open to the public and welcomes the press; the church's mission is not just to shepherd the fold but to reach and teach the rest of us. In the days to come, I'm sure we'll hear a lot about how the church is neither reaching nor teaching—and almost as much about the “liberal” media preaching to the choir.

My colleagues at getreligion rightfully note that while all eyes have been on the Episcopalians, most missed the Methodists take a different tack in the body wars. There's four times as many Methodists than Episcopalians in the US, but they don't get even half the press. Why? Could be part of that liberal media conspiracy—or maybe men with collars mean dollars.

Diane Winston

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