Thursday, August 28, 2014

Politics of American churches & religions in one graph

Ideologies map
Mapping out the politics of religions and churches in the United States Created by Corner of Church & State, and RNS blog
What are the political positions of religions and churches in America? This new graph maps the ideologies of 44 different religious groups using data comes from Pew’s Religious Landscape survey. This survey included 32,000 respondents. It asked very specific questions on religion that allow us to find out the precise denomination, church, or religion of each person.

How to read the graph

  • Each circle represents a denomination, church, or religion. There are several circles for types of Americans with no religion: self-identified “atheist”, self-identified “agnostic”, and those who say that have “no religion in particular”.
  • The size of the circle represents the relative size of the religion in the United States. For very small groups, I put them in groups with other similar churches. In these cases, the circle represents collections of similar churches, e.g., nondenominational evangelicals, all Baptists who aren’t in one of the larger denominations, or all Hindus. The decision for how specific to make the circle was based on the size of the group in the survey.
  • The color of the circle indicates the religious tradition of the group: evangelical Protestant (historically white), Mainline Protestant (historically white), historically black Protestant, Catholic, a catch-all category for other Christian groups, all other religions, and those with no religion. (yes, there are some disagreements about whether some groups should be coded as evangelical (e.g., Seventh Day Adventist) or even Christian or not (e.g., Jehovah’s Witness). We can debate these decisions in a future post.
  • The location of the circle represents where a group’s members stand on the two major ideological divides in American politics. The numbers represent the percentile location of each group (details below). The political ideologies of religious groups are placed along two dimensions.
    • Government involvement in the economy (x-axis). This is the major ideological divide in the country. At one end are the “small government” folks who want a  less regulation, fewer services, and more market-oriented policies. At the other are those who want a stronger safety net, tougher consumer protections, and greater checks on the economy. In the Pew survey, this is measured by a question asking whether they wanted: “a smaller government providing fewer services” or “a bigger government providing more services”?
    • Government involvement in morality (y-axis). How much should government be involved in regulating morality? Some people believe that the government should protect morality and should uphold traditional values and religion. Others think government should “stay out of bedrooms” and keep up a high wall between church and state. This can be measured using a question that asked people to pick which statement comes closest to their beliefs: “The government should do more to protect morality in society” or “I worry the government is too involved in this issue”?

Observations from the graph

There’s a lot of information stuffed into this one graph, but here are a few key things we can see:
  • Churches that are similar religiously are also similar ideologically.
  • Evangelicals are classic conservatives (small role in economy, protect morality). Pentecostals want a larger role for government on economic issues.
  • Presbyterian Church in America, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and smaller Methodist churches have historical ties to both evangelicalism and mainline denominations. On the question of government and morality, they are between other evangelical churches and mainline denominations.
  • Mainline churches hold similar economic views as evangelicals but want less government involvement protecting traditional morality.
  • Christians in traditionally black denominations and evangelicals are similar in their views toward morality policy, but there is a large divide on economics.
  • Catholics are large and represent the center on both dimensions.
  • Jews are centrist on the economy. There is a major divide between both Conservative and Orthodox Jews and other streams of Judaism. This divide falls along the morality dimension.
  • The “nones” are united on their ideology toward morality (keep government out!) but there are interesting divides on government services. Atheists want more government services; agnostics favor less governmental involvement in the economy. If you consider Unitarians part of this group, then they’re the most supportive of government services.

Geek note on measurement

The range of each dimension ranges from zero to 100. These scores were calculated by calculating the percentage of each religion giving each answer. The percentages were then subtracted (e.g., percent saying “smaller government” minus percent saying “bigger government”). The scores were then standardized using the mean and standard deviation for all of the scores. Finally, I converted the standardized scores into percentiles by mapping the standardized scores onto the standard Gaussian/normal distribution. The result is a score that represents the group’s average graded on the curve, literally.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pope: Stop Unjust Aggression

Global community must stop unjust aggression

Pope Francis has expressed solidarity with people of all faiths who have been victims of the violence in Iraq, and says the global community must come together to stop the 'unjust aggressors' in the region.

In an interview with journalists on the flight home from his visit to Korea, Pope Francis was asked if he approved of the US's decision to bomb jihadist forces in Iraq in order to protect minorities, including Christians, whose safety was in jeopardy.

'I can only say this: it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor', said the Pope. 'I underline the verb: stop. I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means. With what means can they be stopped? These have to be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit.'

The Pope warned that, historically, the pretence of stopping an unjust oppressor had been used to justify wars of conquest. He said one nation alone could not decide how to intervene, but that it was what the United Nations had been created for.

'It is there that this should be discussed. Is there an unjust aggressor? It would seem there is. How do we stop him? Only that, nothing more', the Pope said.

He said while Christians were suffering in Iraq, the issue wasn't just about protecting one particular community.

'The martyrs, there are many martyrs. But here there are men and women, religious minorities, not all of them Christian, and they are all equal before God', he said.

Later in his interview, the Pope spoke about cruelty and torture, and particularly the vulnerable people who get caught up in conflict.

'Once they spoke about a conventional war, today that does not count. I'm not saying that conventional wars were good things, but today a bomb is sent and it kills the innocent, the guilty, children, women, they kill everybody', he said.

'No! We must stop and think a little about the level of cruelty at which we have arrived.'

He added that torture, used 'almost ordinarily' in the forces of intelligence and judicial processes, is a 'sin against humanity'.

'I would like very much if you, in your media, make a reflection: How do you see these things today? How do you see the cruelty of humanity, and what do you think of torture. I think it would do us all good to reflect on this', he said.

The Pope also spoke about his relationship with Pope Benedict, and said that 'emeritus Popes' may become a more common occurrence in the future.

'At a certain age there isn't the capacity to govern well because the body gets tired, and maybe one's health is good but there isn't the capacity to carry forward all the problems of a government like that of the Church', he said.

Pope Benedict had made 'a beautiful gesture of nobility, of humility and courage'.

'But you could say to me, if you at some time felt you could not go forward, I would do the same! ... I would pray, but I would do the same.'

Friday, August 22, 2014

Why Pope Francis supports limited action against Islamic State

Thomas Reese  |  Aug. 22, 2014Faith and Justice

When it comes to the use of military force, Americans tend to be in two camps: those who want to use overwhelming force to defeat our enemies and those who oppose the use of force for one reason or another.
Conservative hawks and Hollywood are in the first camp -- the bigger the bomb, the better. These folks would support President Franklin D. Roosevelt's call for unconditional surrender during World War II, even though the Vatican feared it would prolong the war.
In the second camp are those opposed to any killing (pacifists) and those who feel that no American should ever die helping a foreigner (isolationists). Both do not trust the government to use force well.
The limited use of force is denigrated by both sides. Foreign policy realists, on the other hand, see the use of military force as simply one among many tools of foreign policy. Thus, President John F. Kennedy could threaten the Russians during the Cuban missile crisis but at the same time secretly negotiate the withdrawal of our missiles from Turkey in exchange for removing the Russian missiles from Cuba.
Hawks criticized President George H.W. Bush, another realist, for not letting our troops take Baghdad. The hawks wanted total victory, and the pacifists opposed any fighting. Bush, on the other hand, had limited goals -- getting Iraq out of Kuwait.
The limited use of force is a hard sell in a democracy. People don't want their children to die for limited foreign policy goals. Their deaths have meaning only if they are defending our country or dying for the highest principles (freedom, etc.).
The French solved this problem by having the French Foreign Legion, an army made up of expendable foreigners. The U.S. tried to solve this problem by eliminating the draft and staffing the military with poor, undereducated minorities.
It is this context that makes it so difficult for Americans to understand the Vatican's position on the use of military force, which is based on the just war theory.
The Vatican begins with a presumption against war. War can only be a last resort after all other avenues have been exhausted. Diplomacy and reconciliation must be tried first. But "last resort" does not mean "never."
Waging war requires a just cause, such as defending oneself or another from unjust aggression. But not every just cause is an excuse for the use of military might. Besides a just cause, the military intervention must cause less harm than not intervening. You do not destroy a village to save it. The use of military force must be proportionate, and everything possible should be done to avoid civilian casualties.
Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI opposed both Gulf Wars and Pope Francis opposed any American intervention in Syria because they did not think those actions fulfilled the criteria demanded by the just war doctrine. They called for cease-fires, negotiations, diplomacy and reconciliation. They believed military intervention would only make matters worse.
The popes were clearly right with regards to the second invasion of Iraq. It is hard to argue that the thousands of deaths and billions of dollars spent have made Iraq better.
As for Syria, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she would have given more support to the "moderates" than President Barack Obama did, while the pope opposed any outside military intervention. I agree with the pope and Obama. There is no evidence that we would have done better in Syria than we did in Iraq, especially with a much smaller investment of resources. The moderates would have failed no matter how many weapons we gave them. The just war theory says you should not wage a war you cannot win. 
Because the popes and the Vatican have so ardently opposed war, many were surprised when the Vatican supported intervention to stop the slaughter of religious minorities by the Islamic State. They should not have been surprised. The Vatican also supported international intervention in the early 1990s to stop ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Last week, Catholic News Service reported that when asked about the U.S. military airstrikes, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Vatican nuncio to Iraq, told Vatican Radio, "This is something that had to be done, otherwise [the Islamic State] could not be stopped."

Likewise, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, said, "When all other means have been exhausted, to save human beings the international community must act. This can include disarming the aggressor."
For Tomasi, this was a case of "humanitarian intervention," but it should be done by the international community and not unilaterally by one nation. 
The pope said something similar during his press conference on his way home from South Korea. In response to a journalist's question, he said:

In these cases where there is unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb "stop"; I don't say bomb, make war -- stop him. The means by which he may be stopped should be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit, but we nevertheless need to remember how many times, using this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor, the powerful nations have dominated other peoples, made a real war of conquest. A single nation cannot judge how to stop this, how to stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War, there arose the idea of the United Nations. That is where we should discuss: "Is there an unjust aggressor? It seems there is. How do we stop him?" But only that, nothing more.
Francis was very careful in what he said and what he did not say. In saying, "It is licit to stop the unjust aggressor," he said "stop," not "destroy," "conquer," "push back" or "defeat." Stop, "only that, nothing more." This limited goal will not please the hawks.
Nor did he say how to stop the unjust aggressor, but he did say, "I don't say bomb, make war." Rather, "the means by which he may be stopped should be evaluated." And like Tomasi, he argues that this should be done by the international community, the United Nations.
Here, foreign policy realists will say that the pope is naive. The only way that the Islamic State was stopped was with force, including bombs. And if we had waited until the U.N. acted, it would have been too late to save anyone.
For more on humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect, see the excellent analysis by my colleague Jesuit Fr. Drew Christiansen.

I would guess that the pope's diplomats (Lingua and Tomasi) are more closely articulating the Vatican's position than the pope. The pope is being extremely cautious because he does not want American hawks to say he is blessing American military intervention to destroy the Islamic State. Nor does he want Muslim extremists to say he is calling a crusade against Islam. He prudently errs on the side of caution and lets his diplomats fill in the blanks.
What the pope really did at his news conference was stress the word "stop." He is not giving the American military a blank check. Stopping the advance of the Islamic State allows for diplomacy and negotiations to take place. He understands that the use of American might to take back Mosul would be a disaster. Rockets and bombs can only liberate a city by destroying it.
From Obama's point of view, limited military intervention provides time for the new Iraqi government to get its act together, especially by bringing the Sunnis on board. He understands, as the hawks do not, that there is no American military solution to the conflict in Iraq. Only the Sunnis can defeat the Islamic State. After all, it was the Sunni awakening that defeated al-Qaida, not the American surge.
Here, the pope and the president agree: Only Iraqi negotiations and compromise can bring peace to the people of Iraq. 
[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ.]

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Our Incredible Bodies

Practicing yoga teaches us a lot about our bodies. We probably do not think about more than 5% of our bodies each day, but with yoga, you become more attuned to your contours. It is amazing how much tension our body holds.

Today we focused upon relaxing parts of our face, including the inside of our mouths. We also relaxed our extremities, like toes and fingers. So much of our body throughout the day resists pressures rather than giving in an relaxing. We carry a constant strain. But even these very minor exercises that allow us to stretch make us mindful of those small muscles that we seldom acknowledge. It is truly amazing how the body works together.

Yoga is humbling me. Simple stretches that make us limber are sometimes difficult. They seem so easy to do, but my body doesn't always go that way without great effort. It is futile to compare yourselves with other yoga participants because our structures are radically different.

I always thought yoga would be easy and that I should use the nautilus equipment to really stretch, but I'm in the right place. I have seen that I am already a little more limber and I want to continue in this particular direction. Yoga is a challenge, but one that everyone can undertake at his or her own pace.

Profile of a parishioner in the Arab Daily News

By Ramzy Sweis

Exploring the Archeological History of Jordan
Jacqui grew up running around her father’s engineer projects [like dams] in her own hard hat.  Her mother was the 1stwoman to graduate in Economics from City University in NY to be a college professor. Jacqui loved history & her Italian family on her mother’s side had long Sunday dinners with many people who debated politics, culture & religion for hours. Her grandmother loved art, & encouraged her to draw, as well as listen to opera. Her father took painting lessons. Jacqui thought art was too frivolous to major in, so she majored in biology, then history.
Jacqui found her niché but was thrown inexorable hurdles. Before achieving her MA thesis, her publication was turned down as a man stole her thesis. She spent 2 years in the Peace Corps in the Nigerian desert with Fulainis, Hausas, camels, & her horse, preaching art history. She lost her voice for 6 years due to laryngitis during her second pregnancy. Her husband was ill in a mental hospital leaving 2 infants with no way to work nor money. She had to go on welfare & food stamps to survive. It gave her understanding for the poor esp. struggling mothers. Once she had surgery with Teflon implant in her left vocal cord, & her voice returned, she was able to withstand. Living near the World Trade Center: she was offered a job on the 95th floor of Tower 2 in September in 2001 yet promised to return to teaching toddlers in the Bed-Stuy ghetto, saving her life. She studied in Paris, then received a PhD from Oxford University, U.K. Her thesis was a study of the symbolic significance of the cloud as a theophany (an appearance of the divine) in ancient pagan religions, Judaism & Christianity. It took a decade to complete. She explains, “Whenever I began to work on my dissertation I faced the cloud of the towers burning through my window so that the cloud became a sign of death & destruction for me.”
As a teacher in NYC public schools Jacqui once had a student high on crack, chasing her through the building all day trying to kill her; already having been thrown against a wall & dislocating her shoulder, while trying to choke her. She was transported to another school.
Jacqui taught at New York Institute of Technology in 2007 in the Computer Graphics/Fine Arts Dept. & in 2 years she was Department Chair.  Her son is a social worker during the day, DJ Prez Ike at night. Her daughter is an acclaimed yoga teacher in Brooklyn.
Jacqui now teaches Islamic Architecture in Context at German Jordan University. She collected clothes, blankets, bed sheets & medicine for the Iraqi & Syrian refugees from colleagues of Westbeth in Greenwich Village, the largest artists’ housing complex in the world. Also her home. Friends like Ultra Violet, who was in Andy Warhol’s factory. The jazz musician Gil Evans. Edith Stephen, former dancer, choreographer now filmmaker in her 90’s winning a NY Film Festival award. Jacqui is in her films.
Visiting Jerusalem to the book signing of peace activist Frank Romano, aboard the “Peace Bus” to Gaza, she was sprayed with “Skunk” Gas & Tear Gas en route to Mt. of Olives where she was staying in the House of Peace run by the famous Ibrahim el-Hawa. A link to her paintings. Recent review of her art installationon the Marvi Marmara Flotilla at Bandak Gallery. Jacqui plans to publish a book on Marvi Mamara where she painted portraits of men killed on the Flotilla to Gaza in 2010. She plans complete research on the appearance of Islamic sacred geometry in a Christian church in Umm al Rasas. Lastly, working with the Jordan National Gallery of Art, to bring the famous artist Duda Penteado from Brazil to direct workshops in Amman. He joins people from diverse or antagonistic backgrounds, to talk together for a few days, then work on making art together, which is then exhibited. He began this project after 9/11 to bring Muslims, Jews, Christians of all backgrounds together to communicate & to understand each other.
“I believe the US needs to see the Middle East with a more balanced perspective, & seeing the art work would be an important part of correcting the negative image the media presents.”

Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer’s Decline

Since last Wednesday’s record setting rainfall, the air has a definitive feel of summer’s end. Warm days still abound and we will have many pleasant days to come, but there is a distinct, but quiet quality that says ‘summer’s glory days are over.’ The daylight slips quietly into night a little earlier each day and the cool evenings are causing the marshy grasses to develop a red hue, which will soon be brown. The ‘signs of the times’ says, “prepare for winter’s grasp.”

As I settle in, I keep my eyes fixed on Iraq, Syria, Kurdistan, Gaza, and other troubled spots, and I miss the parishioners of the Sacred Heart parish, but I do feel as if I am reclaiming energy again and will re-emerge into the Jesuit world soon again.

Oh, I found a jar of vegemite the other day.

I will settle on art classes later in the week and will then prepare for a semester’s worth of study. I am looking forward to this. I feel my world tilting. It is still jarring when people call me an artist so I have to wrestle with that more. I am comfortable being an art student.

Today, I received a beautiful letter from a teacher at Cheverus High School. Years ago, we formed a faculty schola to sing at masses. When I left the school, they continued on and now call themselves “The Chevies.” They performed a concert at Ocean Park a few weeks ago and sent me the program as a thank-you for getting the group started. I am very proud of them and they continued with great singing after I left. I’m honored that they acknowledged me.

The arts will always find a way to flourish.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A journalist's confession

Thomas Reese  |  Aug. 15, 2014Faith and Justice

Journalist: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been seven months since my last confession. I have been beating up on the U.S. Catholic bishops for their obsession (Pope Francis' word, not mine) with abortion, gay marriage, and birth control and ignored what they have said about justice and peace.

Priest: Well, beating up on the bishops is not a sin. That is part of your vocation. But what stories have you ignored?

Journalist: Well, here are some of the stories I have ignored since January:

Priest: (Soft snoring heard.)

Journalist: Father?

Priest: Oh, yes. By the way, who is this Bishop Pates that you mentioned so many times?

Journalist: He is the bishop of Des Moines. In November 2011, the U.S. bishops elected him chair of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace. 

Priest: Never heard of him. OK. For your penance, publish the list.

Journalist: Oh $#!+.

Priest: Go in peace. 

[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ.]