- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2010

Accommodations

“City of Helsinki pool [is] sponsoring Muslim girls’ only swimming classes. This is the screenshot of the Helsinki City Pool website page.

“This is wrong on so many levels. At the minimum, it should be billed as female swimming classes, but as a rule, anything even remotely resembling gender apartheid should be avoided at all costs. Islamic teachings provide the youth with a warped view and understanding of the sexes from an early age. This actually goes against discrimination laws already on the books in Finland.

“The [Tundra Tabloids] is waiting to see if any of the humanist groups and civil liberty organizations take up the challenge of defending individual rights for all Finnish citizens and residents.”

- Blogger KGS, writing on “Dhimmitude in Finland,” on May 12 at Tundra Tabloids

Conversions

“There may be cultural reasons that religious identities seem more fluid now or conversion (from anything to anything else) more appealing. Americans - maybe people in general, but definitely contemporary Americans - are more drawn to narratives of personal transformation than to narratives of perseverance. We like to hear about overturning, not deepening. We like to think of ourselves as rebels, discoverers, people who have figured out the big truths our parents missed.

“And, of course, Christianity is uniquely suited to this approach. The New Testament - unlike the Hebrew Bible, which offers an array of stories of return to faith, or teshuvah - has an all-convert cast of characters. (Uh, not counting Jesus.) It’s a series of stories about the scales falling from our eyes, doubt giving way to faith, and old giving way to shockingly new. The New Testament, taken on its own, doesn’t give models for Catholic parents, educators, or their charges who seek to grow in their ‘inherited’ faith rather than discovering a new one.

“So perhaps one place to look for inspiration is Jewish practice. The Passover and Palm Sunday liturgies have more in common than their time frame: They’re also occasions in which Jews and Catholics act out roles from their religious past. … Jewish children are instructed that they, personally, were delivered from slavery in Egypt by the hand of the Lord. Jewish children are explicitly told that the story of the Jewish people is the story of their present tense, not the past. They’re encouraged to view their faith as a matter not solely of belief and custom but personal identity.”

- Eve Tushnet, writing on “Cradle Will Rock,” on May 19 at Inside Catholic magazine

Lamentations

“These three things - individual conscience, the power of symbols to inspire and convince, and the separation of church and state - are not merely areas of law to Protestants. No, these are the things that inflame the Protestant soul - the things we have fought over, left other churches and start new denominations to uphold, teach our children, sing of in our hymnody, of which we write books and hold theological debates, and why we do good on behalf of our neighbors. Protestants do not always agree on how these principles work out in the law, nor have Protestants always followed their own principles to their logical legal conclusions. But these are the things that guide Protestants, the insights that animate the followers of one of Christianity’s great traditions.

“Elena Kagan will be a fine and fair justice. President Obama has made a thoughtful, considered choice. But, on this day, I am a little sad. Missing from the bench in upcoming years will be someone who empathizes with the Protestant worldview in a visceral way. As religious cases multiply in an increasingly pluralistic world, I can’t help but think that losing the lived memory of American Protestantism will be a loss for all of us indeed.”

- Diana Butler Bass, writing on “Elena Kagan, the Supreme Court, and a Lament for American Protestantism,” on May 10 at her Beliefnet blog Christianity for the Rest of Us