Mere Links 06.02.14
Monday, June 2, 2014, 10:00 AM

Medicare to Now Cover Sex-Change Surgery
Roni Caryn Rabin, New York Times

Medicare may no longer exclude sex-reassignment surgery from coverage, a government appeals board ruled Friday. It said the current exclusion was “no longer reasonable” because the surgery is safe and effective and can no longer be considered experimental.

Are Millennials Really Leaving the Church? Yes — but Mostly White Millennials
Bob Smietana, OnFaith

All the hand-wringing stories about young adults leaving religion overlooks the vibrancy and growth of multiethnic churches.

Pope Francis’s rollicking plane ride home: Rule of celibate priests ‘always open’ to change
Terrence McCoy, Washington Post

Priestly celibacy “is not a dogma of faith.” Last week, the pope got a letter. It was from a group of priests’ girlfriends. They pleaded with him to strike down rules prohibiting priests from marriage and sex. “Each of us is in, was or would like to start a relationship with a priest we are in love with,” the women wrote in the letter.

Drive-thru at church: The easy-pray lane
Terri Akman, Philadelphia Inquirer

In an age when convenience is king and religion is often ridiculed, some churches looking to widen their outreach efforts are embracing what community banks and pharmacies have utilized for decades: the drive-through.

Mere Links 05.30.14
Friday, May 30, 2014, 10:00 AM

Conservative Christianity and the transgender question
Russell D. Moore, OnFaith

As a conservative evangelical Christian, I believe the so-called transgender question will require a church with a strong theological grounding, and a winsome pastoral footing.

The Southern Baptist Convention: An Introduction

The SBC is made up of more than 16 million members who hold membership in 44,848 autonomous, local churches. By calling the churches autonomous, we mean that they make their own decisions on staffing, budget, and program. No one outside the churches holds this authority.

Amicable breakup of UMC needed, pastor group says
Sam Hodges, United Methodist Reporter

A group of United Methodist pastors and theologians is calling for an amicable split of the denomination, saying differences over homosexuality and other issues are irreconcilable.

For Middle East, Region of Religious Conflict, Pope Suggests a Respite in Prayer
Jodi Rudoren, New York Times

The meeting is not going to produce a treaty, of course. But could it at least bring the sides back to the negotiating table?

Mere Links 05.29.14
Thursday, May 29, 2014, 10:00 AM

Too Scared to Cry: Social Media Outrage and the Gospel
Russell Moore, Desiring God

We must learn to lament, because once we no longer lament we turn instead to anger, outrage, blame, and quarrelsomeness. The louder and more frantic the anger, the more we feel as though we’re really showing conviction and grit.

Our Moral Obligation to Vote
Bishop James D. Conley, STL, Crisis Magazine

From the very beginning, Catholics have played a vital role in the success of the American experiment. And our involvement in public and political life is still essential to the well-being of our nation.

The Supreme Court on Prayer
Gerard V. Bradley, Public Discourse

Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Greece v. Galloway is the Court’s best piece of Establishment Clause work in decades—and a happy omen for religious liberty in our country.

St. Joan of Arc: A Guide for Every Age
Christopher Check, Crisis Magazine

Mark Twain, who considered his biography of Saint Joan of Arc, whose feast we celebrate Friday, to be his best work. He called the Maid of Orleans “easily and by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced.”

Mere Links 05.28.14
Wednesday, May 28, 2014, 10:00 AM

A Load That Can Be Carried Without Violating the Sabbath
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

Sometimes in the Gospels we find an abrupt transition of contrasting scenes to convey an irony fundamental to the Gospel itself. For example, strength made perfect in infirmity, or the wisdom revealed to the simple.

Sudanese woman sentenced to death for her Christianity gives birth in prison
Faith Karim and Mohammed Osman, CNN

A Sudanese woman sentenced to die for refusing to renounce her Christianity has given birth to a girl in prison, her lawyers said Tuesday.

On Thinking With the Church
Dale M. Coulter, First Things

The question is how to connect evangelicals to the Great Tradition, which brings me to Pope Francis’s appeal to the church as the people of God.

China’s Religious Persecution: How Will The World Respond?
Elise Hilton, Acton PowerBlog

Bob Fu, a former pastor from China and founder of ChinaAid, discusses the increasing persecution of religion, especially Christianity, in China. At FaithStreet, Fu says that both unofficial “house churches” and denominational churches struggle to exist.

Mere Links 05.27.14
Tuesday, May 27, 2014, 10:00 AM

Mere Consent and the Abolition of Human Dignity
Francis J. Beckwith, The Catholic Thing

[M]any today are suggesting that when it comes to some of the great moral questions of our time, individual autonomy (or “consent”) is the only principle we need in order to secure all the goods for which more ancient understandings, such as human dignity, have been employed.

Conservative United Methodists say split over sexuality is ‘irreconcilable’
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religion News Service

Will the United Methodist Church soon have to drop the “United” part of its name?

With New Bill, Abortion Limits Spread in South
Jeremy Alford and Erick Eckholm, New York Times

The Louisiana State Legislature on Wednesday passed a bill that could force three of the state’s five abortion clinics to close, echoing rules passed in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas and raising the possibility of drastically reduced access to abortion across a broad stretch of the South.

Pope, in Mideast, Stresses Urgency of Solving Crises
Jodi Rudoren, New York Times

Pope Francis called “urgently” on Saturday for a “peaceful solution” to the Syrian crisis and a “just solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as he started a three-day sojourn through the Holy Land at a time of regional turmoil and tension.

Mere Links 05.23.14
Friday, May 23, 2014, 10:00 AM

The hardest place on earth to be a Christian
Jesse Johnson, The Cripplegate

While there are many terrible places on earth to be a Christian (Sudan, North Korea, Afghanistan, Bhutan, etc.), Pakistan is arguably the worst. Other nations persecute believers, but in Pakistan the entire country has spent generations forming a world view that values the torturing of those that claim the name of Christ.

Good News for Churches Worried About Losing Their Pastor’s Best Benefit to Atheist Lawsuits
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Christianity Today

What a Kentucky court ruling implies for a high-profile Wisconsin challenge to the clergy housing allowance.

Is There Such Thing as Moral Orthodoxy
Derek Rishmawy, Reformedish

Pelagianism isn’t explicitly contrary to, say, any of the big three creeds or definitions I named earlier, and yet the Church later saw that it was in fact deeply destructive to the faith, constituting a fundamental denial of the truth of salvation in Christ.

Evangelicals, Catholics, and Togetherness
Dale M. Coulter, First Things

I am particularly concerned about the attempt to wed so closely this debate over the nature of the church with religious and political communion. For Catholics and Evangelicals experience a real, albeit imperfect, communion that supplies the theological ground of a shared religious and political communion.

Mere Links 05.22.14
Thursday, May 22, 2014, 10:00 AM

U.S. Judge Strikes Down Pennsylvania Law Barring Gay Marriage

A federal judge struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage on Tuesday in the latest court decision extending the rights of matrimony to gay and lesbian couples in the United States.

House Passes Bills Aimed at Stemming Human Trafficking
Jennifer Steinhauer, New York Times

The House on Tuesday passed a package of bills aimed at stemming human trafficking, an issue that has slowly begun to gain national attention.

Americans lie about how much they go to church, even if they don’t belong to one
Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post

Less than one-third of phone respondents (30 percent) admitted to attending religious services seldom or never. But online, freed from the normative pressures of interacting with another human being, 43 percent of respondents said they seldom or never went to church. Similarly, online respondents were less likely to say they went to church weekly or occasionally than were phone respondents.

Why Harvard Was Right Not to Ban the Black Mass
Robert T. Miller, Public Discourse

A policy that disempowers university officials from prohibiting student events on the basis of the viewpoint they express demonstrates institutional genius.

Mere Links 05.21.14
Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 10:00 AM

Why Doesn’t the New Testament Condemn Slavery?
Phil Moore, Think Theology

Most of us aren’t surprised that Christians led the fight against slavery in the early nineteenth century. We aren’t surprised that Christians still lead the fight against human trafficking today. What is surprising, however, is that Paul tells the slaves at Ephesus to submit to their masters instead of helping the slaves to throw off their chains.

The Ethics of Jayber Crow
Jake Meador, Mere Orthodoxy

In The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry Anthony Esolen notes that Berry’s longest Port William novel, Jayber Crow, is in many ways a modern day retelling of Dante.

Life on the Academic Animal Farm
Robert Oscar Lopez, Public Discourse

Dehumanizing others through censorship does not befit the academy, but the pigpen.

After 11 years, states are finally committing to fight prison rape
Dara Lind, Vox

Back in 2003, Congress unanimously passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act — a bill to address a problem that, at the time, was little understood. But after that… nothing much seemed to happen for a while.

Mere Links 05.20.14
Tuesday, May 20, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Necessary Gospel in the Old Testament
Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, Preachers Institute

When the New Testament uses the expression “Scriptures,” it normally refers to the Old Testament. The earliest Christian preaching appealed to that body of literature as a necessary component in the Gospel itself.

The Future of Catholicism
R.R. Reno, First Things

I know it rankles, but I’m afraid it’s a fact, one we need to acknowledge if we’re to think clearly about our ecumenical commitments. Protestantism doesn’t figure in the way Catholics think about the future of Catholicism.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Oregon’s Ban on Same-Sex Marriage
Kirk Johnson, New York Times

In addition to Oregon, judges in seven states — Arkansas, Idaho, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia — have had their laws or constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage struck down in recent months.

Sudanese Woman Sentenced to Death After Marrying Christian
Barbara Tasch, Time

A pregnant 27-year-old Sudanese woman was sentenced to death by hanging Thursday for apostasy after marrying a Christian man and refusing to convert to Islam. Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag also faces charges of adultery.

MereLinks 05.19.14
Monday, May 19, 2014, 10:00 AM

Please, Leave the Hagia Sophia Along
Wesley J. Smith, First Things

Turkey’s Islamist government threatens to destroy Hagia Sophia’s crucial “neutral” status. ANSAmed reports that the government plans to turn the former basilica into a mosque in the afternoon and evening, while allowing it to remain a museum during morning hours.

In Defence of War: A Reflection
Matthew Lee Anderson, Mere Orthodoxy

In Defence of War is thoroughly researched, clearly and elegantly written, and masterfully argued. The task I have been given of responding is therefore harder than it might seem.

The 8 worst places in the world to be religious
Daniel Burke, CNN

Among the most worrying trends, according to the State Department, are “authoritarian governments that restrict their citizens’ ability to practice their religion.”

Church Planting Among the Urban Poor
Efrem Smith, Christianity Today

Some of the worst communities in our American cities have churches on every corner.

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