Sunday Roundup: foot-washing is exciting, right?

Hey all. Hope you weren’t counting on an exciting week of religion news, because it has been a downright boring one. How dull was it? Not one, but TWO stories about foot-washing made for this week’s biggest controversies.

Since we’ve already covered the craziest of the two (the two Tennessee congressmen who mistook a new Mop Sink for something Muslims might use to wash their feet), let’s focus on the more interesting one – the story of Pope Francis who (gasp) washed the feet of both girls and Muslims, violating a long tradition that only men’s feet are washed on Holy Thursday, since only men were the disciples of Christ. However, lots of Catholic churches allow for women to be part of this practice – including the one where Francis is visiting. Maybe the reason this became an issue is because Francis has violated so many papal traditions already – whereas Benedict rebuilt some of the lost pomp and circumstance of the Papacy, Francis has flagrantly disregarded it, much to the disdain of conservatives.

Filipino Catholics once again celebrated Good Friday by reenacting it. A number of volunteers were crucified by fake Roman soldiers – but the nails in their hands were very real. Don’t worry, this volunteer lives – assuming they don’t get an infection, which seems quite possible. Still, one of them has done this whole “being crucified” thing twenty-seven times, and he seems okay. Catholic Bishops don’t like it, but they seem pretty powerless to stop it – they condemn the act every year, yet it continues. At any rate, The Huffington Post has a (pretty disturbing) photo slideshow.

One of the tamer images.

Boston College is trying to stop condoms from being distributed for free on campus, on the grounds that BC is a Catholic Institution and Catholics are against Birth Control. And next, they’re kicking out all the atheists and Protestants. As always, intellectual consistency wins the day.

Was Stuebenville “Rape Culture’s Abu Ghraib moment“? And does that mean we’re really going to ignore all the underlying problems and just pretend it didn’t really happen? Maybe. Maybe religious leaders have a part to play in ending rape culture, too.

Favorite evangelical of the week: Nick Vujicic, who has no arms and no legs and preaches against bullying. He types with his two left toes. With two toes!

Not The Onion: Opponents of gay marriage compared themselves to the civil rights movement. Which is funny, because they actually look a lot more like George Wallace -esque segregationists  – politically exploiting intolerance at the expense of people’s legal rights.

Speaking of homophobia: when your nephew/sister/cousin tells you they are doing awesome missionary work in Uganda, advise them to go somewhere else, where they can do more good work, and less damage. Because the U.S. churches that have worked in Uganda have also worked to build an intensely homophobic environment – possibly one of the worst on the planet. So says a new documentary, entitled God Loves Uganda. The way Christian Churches have tried to shape places like Africa through missionary work is in need of a lot of further study – my guess is you’re going to see a lot of stories like this, where the worst of our values get exported and magnified.

Speaking of bad Western ideas that got exported – fear of vaccines! Pakistan’s polio vaccination program continues to collapse upon itself. The Taliban is killing vaccination workers mercilessly, and yet they still enjoy more favorable public opinion than the United States. Perhaps its because of our institutionalized blowing-up of children. As Qanta Ahmed points out, as long as the US undertakes such ridiculous foreign policy, we will be unable to effectively help people – like Pakistani children – who need basic health services, not bombs.

Andrew Brown writes for the Guardian about how Richard Dawkins needs to cool it on the whole “hating Muslims” thing. Meanwhile, France, which is on the verge of just deporting all the Muslims and getting it over with, is in an uproar over a ruling that punished a nursery for firing a woman for wearing a headscarf. Oh my god, it’s like firing someone for a non-violent display of their faith is a bad thing!

Dania Rejendra’s new article for Religion Dispatches may be the funniest thing I read all week. Rejendra tries in vain to navigate the world of Mississippi grocery stores looking for food for a Passover Seder, documenting the reactions of the helpful yet somewhat clueless grocery store workers. One of them confuses a lamb shank with a ham shank, another gives her a bottle of wine with a devil on it…you know what? Just read it.
Meanwhile, Glenn Beck made the ludicrous allegation that Michelle Bachmann is only being investigated for fraud because she’s against the radical Islamists who control America. Seriously, Glenn? Here’s another idea: maybe she’s being investigated for fraud because she probably committed fraud.
What’s worse than a reporter covering religion? How about a reporter covering science? And then, the worst: A REPORTER COVERING RELIGION AND SCIENCE. Get Religion shows us a particularly bad example, featuring the Catholic Church and stem cell research.
And some good news to end the week: Christian congregations are becoming more racially diverse! Very, very slowly. But still – one things evangelicals have been really good at is outreach across racial boundaries. I’m guessing most of those racially diverse congregations are big mega-churches, where traditional racial divides feel conspicuously absent.

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