01: In accounts of prominent political conservatives who have recently converted to Roman Catholicism, the name of Fr. C. John McCloskey often makes an appearance.
McCloskey, director of the Washington, D.C. archdiocese Catholic Information Center, is an Opus Dei priest who has been instrumental in the conversions of such figures on the right as failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, “Crossfire” co-host Robert Novak, Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, economist Larry Kudlow and pro-lifer Bernard Nathanson.
McCloskey’s success in tutoring prospective converts may lie in his staunchly orthodox doctrinal approach along with his openness to free-market conservatism. McCloskey’s connections and proximity to Washington’s media elite has made him the “go-to” cleric for producers seeking an orthodox take on such issues as the church’s sex abuse crisis.
(Source: National Catholic Reporter, Sept. 5)
02: Off The Map is one of a number of new outreach efforts that soft sells evangelical Christianity by emphasizing dialogue over debate and confrontation.
The ministry seeks to help Christians connect with non-Christians through its downplaying of preaching and direct conversion. The ministry leads conferences to train evangelicals how not to engage in evangelism, using video clips of interviews with non-Christians who explain the insensitivity and hypocrisy they encounter among evangelicals. This approach may view feeding the hungry as a way of preaching the evangelical gospel — a position many evangelicals view as diluting and de-emphasizing the doctrinal content of the faith.
(Source: Dallas Morning News, Sept. 13)
03: The recent formation of the Church of Craft is another example of a “free religion” that syncretizes art and spirituality and creates new faiths on an ad hoc and often non-dogmatic basis [see May RW for more on this trend].
As its name implies, the church is based on the practice of arts and crafts, viewing creativity and self-expression as a form of spirituality. The church, started about three years ago, now has branches in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Montreal and Stockholm, among other cities.
Like other free religions, founders of the group started conducting weddings and other rituals as performance art but then realized that they raised questions of spiritual meaning for participants. The group has few of the trappings of traditional religions, such as prayer and sermons, but its meetings, often held on Sundays, create a sense of community and the art and craft work is seen as a “non-denominational spiritual practice.” The church is seeking legal recognition to clarify their tax status as an official church.
(Source: New York Times, Sept. 20; Church of Craft’s website is: http://www.churchofcraft.org)
04: Revolve is a new kind of Bible as it is packaged as a glossy magazine aimed at girls aged 12-17.
Mimicking a teen pop-culture magazine, Revolve is published by the youth division of the evangelical Nashville-based Thomas Nelson publishers. The biblical text (from the New Century Version–known as an “easy reading” translation) is surrounded by color photos and chatty sidebars with splashy headlines. The stress on being “extreme,” which has gained a place in many evangelical youth ministries, marks Revolve’s attempt at relevance, frequently using words such as “radical” “risk-takers,” “raw” and “out-on-a-limb.”
At the same time, standard moral and evangelical advice is offered in blurbs surrounding the biblical text, such as: the “Top Ten random things to know about being a `Revolve’ (magazine) girl — don’t call guys, maintain good posture, “don’t kiss and tell.”
(Source: Courier-Journal, Sept. 16)
05: Meditainment Ltd. is the one of the first and most ambitious computer-aided meditation programs.
The London-based company packages meditation aids via computer (at its site:http://www.meditainment.com) video tapes, CDs, DVDs and big screen presentations. The company’s “programs held in cinemas in England have drawn many to its “communal meditation” sessions. The programs feature calming, complative music, sounds (such as birds chirping) and are secular, promoting no spirituality and religion.
In fact, founder Richard Latham, a wealthy British web designer says that he is “simplifying meditation, making it quick, easy and pleasurable.”
(Source: The Globe and Mail, Sept. 20)