Since I finally got to see Rise of Skywalker last night (it was really good and fun and not perfect!) I’ll lead with Tara Isabella Burton’s piece on how we are all Jedi now:
[Religiously unaffiliated] Americans aren’t, of course, becoming literal Jedis. But we hardly need to carry a light saber to find ourselves talking about a powerful energy that binds together the universe. For more and more Americans whose spirituality lies outside traditional faith structures — even those who identify as Christian but whose private beliefs are more syncretic in nature — the theology espoused by Star Wars, of vaguely conceived notions of Light and Dark, has become the new theological normal.
The idea of a cosmic force with good and bad iterations is as old as, well, yoga. But these days it can found in SoulCycle classes, meditation apps and self-help and self-care guides advising us to avoid “toxic” energy in others. A 2018 Pew poll found that a full 42% of Americans said they believed that spiritual energy could be located in physical objects. (That number spiked to 47% among the religiously unaffiliated.)
President Trump says…stuff…about…um…wind? One almost hopes he’s read Don Quixote, but then you simply know he hasn’t:
I never understood wind. I know windmills very much, I have studied it better than anybody. I know it is very expensive. They are made in China and Germany mostly, very few made here, almost none, but they are manufactured, tremendous — if you are into this — tremendous fumes and gases are spewing into the atmosphere.
You know we have a world, right?
So the world is tiny compared to the universe. So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint, fumes are spewing into the air, right spewing, whether it is China or Germany, is going into the air.
A windmill will kill many bald eagles. After a certain number, they make you turn the windmill off, that is true. By the way, they make you turn it off. And yet, if you killed one, they put you in jail. That is OK. But why is it OK for windmills to destroy the bird population?
Ian Johnson at the New York Times looks at how the Chinese government is promoting a kind of “civil religion,” reviving traditional beliefs in order to satisfy the need for some kind of spirituality that doesn’t knock heads with the Communist Party:
This new state-guided religiosity is the flip side of the government’s harsh policies toward Islam and Christianity. Officials believe these two global faiths are hard to control because of their foreign ties, and they have used negotiation or force — diplomacy with the Vatican, arrests of prominent Protestants, internment camps for Muslims — to try to bring these religions to heel.
The Washington Post has a big investigative piece on Joseph Mercola, the “natural health” guru/snake oil salesman who is funding much of the anti-vaxxer movement, which of course benefits his business directly:
The Northern Virginia-based National Vaccine Information Center lists Mercola.com as a partner on its homepage and links to the website, where readers can learn about and purchase Mercola’s merchandise.
Last month, Mercola wrote on his website that measles “continues to be a Trojan Horse for increasing vaccine mandates.” A page that was recently removed said that “vitamin C supplementation is a viable option for measles prevention.” Elsewhere on the site, a page about vitamin D includes the headline, “Avoid Flu Shots With the One Vitamin that Will Stop Flu in Its Tracks.”
Mercola, whose claims about other products have drawn warnings from regulators, has also given at least $4 million to several groups that echo the anti-vaccine message. His net worth, derived largely from his network of private companies, has grown to “in excess of $100 million,” he said in a 2017 affidavit.
Steven Salzberg at Forbes hopes the next decade is post-“post-truth”:
Every era is the age of truth. The idea that we’re in a “post-truth era,” despite being repeated thousands of times in articles, essays, and op-eds over the past decade, is a commentary on people’s ability to fool themselves, not on the state of the world. Truth describes the world as it is, and those who choose to deny it might win a short-term argument, but in the long term, they will always lose.
Isaac Chotiner at The New Yorker interviews Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today and author of the magazine’s anti-Trump editorial. Chotiner tries to get Galli to confront the reality that Trump is bad on religious liberty issues for non-Christians, but Galli never really bites:
I am not going to defend his track record in any area in particular. He has huge blind spots when it comes to Muslims. I think Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world today—and there are sectors of the United States where they are increasingly being disenfranchised, in areas that I think are unfair and unjust, and in those areas I think he has done a better-than-average job with.
As you can imagine, no one’s mind is being changed by the editorial. But a lot of evangelicals sure do claim to have hated Christianity Today for a long time, all of a sudden.
Nicholas Kristof at the Times interviews evangelical Christian Philip Yancey about whether the Jesus story needs all the stuff about magic powers and virgin birth:
[Kristof:] Isn’t it possible to admire Jesus’ message in the Sermon on the Mount without buying into the miracles? Why can’t we subscribe to Jesus’ message of love while dropping the walking on water, the multiplying of loaves and fishes, the raising Lazarus from the dead?
[Yancey:] Certainly you can admire the message alone, and many people do. I don’t know of anyone who tried more conscientiously to follow the Sermon on the Mount than Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu. But do we lose something by ignoring or rejecting the miracles? I think we do. John’s Gospel calls them “signs.” They signify something about a God who wants creation renewed so that the blind see, the lame walk, the hungry are fed and the dead resurrected.
China is still on the list of the State Department’s “countries of particular concern” in regard to religious freedom, along with Burma, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. One important shift is that Sudan is getting moved off the list. Sam Brownback says:
They’ve stopped bulldozing churches; they’ve redesignated Christmas — both the normal Christmas and Orthodox Christmas — as national holidays. They have brought, now, people of other faiths into the new cabinet.
A LibDem peer of UK’s Parliament presents a bill to kick the Church of England’s bishops out of the House of Lords.
You have likely heard about the pardons issued by former governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky. I’m so horrified by some of it I don’t even want to write about it, so just go read about it here if you want to.
Also horrifying, this BBC report on Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, who abused more than 60 children and allowed the abuse of 175 others at the hands of his priests. He’s dead now, so he can’t face justice.
Before the United Methodist Church cracks down on clergy performing same-sex marriages or allowing LGBTQ folks to become clergy at all for 2020, the First United Methodist Church of Dallas is scrambling to reaffirm marriage vows for everybody, regardless of orientation, before the year is over.
Most Canadians view Christmas as a primarily secular, religiously-neutral celebration, and about a third say it’s both secular and religious.
The Northern Indiana Atheists get to put up a “Tolerance Tree” in the County-City Building in South Bend, Indiana, with a sign reading “Oh Come All Ye Faithless.” Has Mayor Pete seen it?
A candidate for Australia’s Senate, Isaac Golden is also a homeopath, anti-vaxxer, and, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, a former member of this cult:
The cult’s leader Ian Lowe, now dead, was a former policeman from New Zealand who reinvented himself as Alistah Laishkochev, a paedophile with a harem of nine wives and 63 of his own children, and a belief system based on UFOs and Hawaiian-Old Testament spirituality, according to court documents and insider accounts.
Sarah Kaplan at the Washington Post goes to the Burgess Shale and sees a warning to our own species among the fossils:
Like the creatures of the Cambrian, humans are entering a world utterly unlike the one in which we evolved. Our species may not die out, but life as we know it cannot go on. While the trilobites had no hand in their fate, we brought this revolution on ourselves.
Merry Christmas, now please enjoy (or not) the Washington Post‘s infographic of sadness, “How we know global warming is real.”
Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.