TIME Nepal

Half a Million Animals Saved as Nepal Nixes the World’s Largest Slaughter Festival

Gadhimai
Roberto Schmidt—AFP/Getty Images Butchers raise their blades at a temple before the first animal sacrifices by priests are conducted for the Gadhimai festival in the village of Bariyapur, Nepal, on Nov. 28, 2014

Experts say around 500,000 goats, chickens and buffalos were decapitated at Gadhimai in 2009

Nepal’s Gadhimai Temple Trust, which oversees the world’s biggest animal sacrifice every five years, announced Tuesday that no slaughter would take place at this year’s festival.

The announcement comes on the heels of an international movement against the event, which led the Indian Supreme Court to prohibit animals from being shipped or shepherded across the border to be killed as offerings.

“With your help, we can ensure the festival in 2019 is free from bloodshed,” chairman of the temple trust Ram Chandra Shah said in a statement announcing the ban. “Moreover, we can ensure Gadhimai 2019 is a momentous celebration of life.”

Gauri Maulekhi, consultant for Humane Society International/India (HSI) and trustee for People for Animals Uttarakhand, who was among the petitioners in the Supreme Court case, called the move a “tremendous victory for compassion” but acknowledged that the hardest task is still to come. Maulekhi said the HSI would spend the three and a half years until the next festival in 2019 educating would-be celebrants in the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal about the temple’s decision.

HSI estimates that more than 500,000 goats, chickens and buffalos, along with other animals, were decapitated at Gadhimai in 2009. The festival, which dates back about 265 years and which some say has even more ancient roots, is based on a dream founder Bhagwan Chowdhary had featuring Gadhimai, the Hindu goddess of power. In the dream, Gadhimai demanded a sacrifice after freeing Chowdhary from prison, promising power and prosperity in return. Chowdhary prepared an animal offering, establishing a legacy of tradition and blood that would last nearly three centuries.

TIME Religion

The Pope Francis Statement That Changed the Church on LGBT Issues

Pope Francis greets the attendees of a conference as part of the II Meeting of People's Movements in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on on July 9, 2015.
Amanecer Tedesqui/CON—Getty Images Pope Francis greets the attendees of a conference as part of the II Meeting of People's Movements in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on on July 9, 2015.

Christopher Hale is executive director at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial.

Over the last two years, the Catholic Church has become more open to welcoming the LGBT community

“If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Two years ago Tuesday, Pope Francis uttered these words, sending shockwaves throughout the Catholic Church and the world. His position stood in contrast to that of his predecessors: Months earlier, Pope Benedict XVI suggested that gay marriage was a threat to global peace.

Under the leadership of Pope Francis, the Catholic Church is evolving on LGBT issues. As theologian David Cloutier has noted, the process isn’t political—it’s spiritual. The church is beginning to discern more deeply the full measure of God’s presence in LGBT individuals and, yes, couples, too. There have been five notable moments in this evolution.

1. Pope Francis said that God doesn’t condemn LGBT individuals — Sept. 30, 2013

In an interview with America Magazine, Pope Francis revealed his pastoral approach toward the LGBT community:

A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being.

2. Pope Francis suggested the church could be open to civil unions — March 5, 2014

Francis said in an interview that the church could be open to same-sex civil unions, a view he had first voiced as archbishop of Buenos Aires. The pope reiterated the church’s teaching that a “marriage is between a man and a woman” but argued that on civil unions, “we have to look at different cases and evaluate them in their variety.”

3. The Francis effect goes global — Summer of 2014

The summer of 2014 was a remarkable period during which a number of high-ranking Catholic prelates signaled that Pope Francis’s more open posture had permeated throughout the Catholic world. In May, a top-ranking Italian bishop said that the church should listen to same-sex marriage arguments. A few weeks later, Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, said he “didn’t know” whether Jesus would oppose gay marriage. In early September, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan approved the St. Patrick Day Parade Committee’s decision to allow a gay group to march in the 2015 parade under their own banner. (Twenty-one years earlier, one of Dolan’s predecessors, Cardinal John O’Connor, said that to allow a gay group to march would be a slander to the Apostles’ Creed.)

4. The Synod on the Family’s interim report affirmed the “gifts and qualities” of LGBT individuals — October 2014

The bishops gathered for Pope Francis’s Synod on the Family in October 2014 issued a report suggesting that the church should create a more inclusive space for LGBT Catholics. In the document, they said that the LGBT community has “gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community,” and they asked, “Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?” Though this language was rejected in the final draft, it sparked a conversation that the church could formally change its stance toward the LGBT community when the bishops meet again this October.

5. The pope began a series of meetings and dialogues with LGBT individuals and activists — 2015

Throughout the first months of 2015, Pope Francis had several encounters with LGBT individuals and groups, including a transgender man from Spain who was excluded from his parish community, and gay and transgender prisoners in Naples. The Vatican also gave the VIP treatment to a pro-LGBT American Catholic group visiting Rome and the pope met with a gay Paraguayan activist during his recent trip to South America.

Collectively these events signal a church that is more open to welcoming the LGBT community and the diverse realities of the modern family than it was two years ago. After the Supreme Court’s ruling in support of same-sex marriage last month, Blase Cupich, Pope Francis’s handpicked archbishop of Chicago, said the church’s respect for LGBT individuals “must be real, not rhetorical, and ever reflective of the Church’s commitment to accompanying all people.” Such language would have been rare two years ago. Today it’s expected. Thank God.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Theater

The Book of Mormon Musical Has Finally Arrived in Utah

Book of Mormon Utah
Rick Bowmer—AP People walk past signs announcing the Book of Mormon musical at the Capitol Theatre on July 27, 2015, in Salt Lake City.

"It's like playing 'Fiddler on the Roof' to a bunch Jews"

SALT LAKE CITY — The biting satirical musical that mocks Mormons has finally come to the heart of Mormonlandia, starting a sold-out, two-week run Tuesday at a Salt Lake City theater two blocks from the church’s flagship temple and headquarters.

The Tony Award-winning “The Book of Mormon” has earned rave reviews while appalling some with its crudeness. But this will mark the first time the show’s gleefully naive missionaries come to Utah, where about two-thirds of residents are estimated to be Mormon.

The show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone of “South Park” fame, told The Associated Press that bringing the show to Salt Lake City feels like validation, and also brings the creative process full circle.

Parker and Stone used to “trip out” on Mormon stuff while taking Temple Square tours in the 1990s. They made their first research trip for the show to Salt Lake City with fellow creator Bobby Lopez in the mid-2000s. They waited to bring the show to Salt Lake City until they were invited by a theater.

“It feels like a really cool thing that it finally gets to play Salt Lake City,” Stone said. “It just feels very much like it’s coming home.”

Though they won’t be able to make it to any of the showings, they’re hopeful the show’s jokes will get even bigger laughs in a crowd likely to be more familiar with Mormon culture than most audiences. “It’s like playing ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ to a bunch Jews,” Parker said.

Despite a series of jokes and jabs that create a caricature of Mormon beliefs, it’s not expected to cause much of a stir or any protests.

Some curious Latter-day Saints may go to see what all the fuss is about, but most will probably turn the other cheek and let the state’s non-Mormons revel in the fun, said Scott Gordon, president of a volunteer organization that supports the church called FairMormon.

“It’s like going to your own roast . . . that goes too far,” Gordon said. “Nobody likes to be made fun of, especially with crude humor.”

Yet the show has actually contributed to a shift in how Americans think of a religion once seen as threatening and looking to undermine the established social order, said Matthew Bowman, an associate professor of history at Henderson State University.

“Instead of the presentation of Mormons being very sinister and conniving and corrupt, Mormons are kind of naive, very nice and very dumb,” said Bowman, author of the 2012 book, “The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith.” Membership stands at 15 million currently from just 5 million members in 1982.

Leaders with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have remained pretty quiet about the show over the years, just repeating a one-line statement that has now become synonymous with the show. “The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ,” it reads.

Attendees at the Capitol Theater in Salt Lake City will see church ads in the playbill that show a smiling woman with the words, “The book is always better” and another with a smiling man, “You’ve seen the play, now read the book.”

The church has also referred back to a lengthy article it wrote in 2009 when HBO’s “Big Love” was touching on sensitive Mormon beliefs. Church leaders said then they choose not to call on boycotts or give much attention to inaccurate portrayals in popular culture to avoid giving the shows the controversy and attention they crave.

Parker and Stone aren’t surprised by the church’s tempered response to their show. They grew up around Mormons and knew it wasn’t their style to yell and shout.

Parker’s fascination with the religion began when he was dating a Mormon girl while growing up in Colorado. He recalls her family inviting him over for a family evening, where they turned off the TV and sang.

The musical isn’t their first time poking fun at Mormons. They made a South Park episode and a 1997 movie called “Orgazmo,” staring Parker as young Mormon recruited into porn. He’s still recognized for that role more in Utah than anywhere else.

Gordon said he has mixed feelings about a musical. It has brought extra attention to Mormonism, and most Latter-day Saints can take same ribbing. But he said, “I just wish it didn’t go so too far.”

Bowman said many Mormons, who generally shy away from R-rated movies, are horrified by the vulgarity of the musical. Others are just disappointed that it’s the latest in a long line of depictions of them by outsiders that is offensive, Bowman said.

But that doesn’t mean Mormons don’t go see it. Parker and Stone started noticing Mormons, or at least people who knew the religion well, in the crowds on Broadway because they could hear snickers at certain jokes only they would get.

“I think it legitimizes them,” Stone said. “You’re not really real until somebody makes fun of you and makes a big Broadway show about you. Then you’re really, really part of the American fabric.”

TIME Culture

Hundreds Gather for Unveiling of Satanic Statue in Detroit

Matt Anderson The bronze monument was unveiled by the Satanic Temple in Detroit on July 25, 2015

The "largest public satanic ceremony in history"

A little before midnight on Saturday, a crowd of around 700 gathered in an old industrial warehouse a few blocks from the Detroit River for what they’d been told was the “largest public satanic ceremony in history.” Most of them professed to be adherents of Satanism, that loosely organized squad of the occult that defines itself as a religious group. Others came simply because they were curious. After all, Satanists exist in the popular psyche as those who casually sacrifice goats and impregnate Mia Farrow with Lucifer’s child; if this ceremony was indeed unprecedentedly big, who knew what could be in store?

Read more: The Evolution of Modern Satanism in the United States

The reality of the event — and of the contemporary Satanic movement at large — was tamer, and, if the Facebook pictures speak the truth, harmlessly festive: a cross between an underground rave and a meticulously planned Halloween party. They were there to publicly unveil a colossal bronze statue of Baphomet, the goat-headed wraith who, after centuries of various appropriations, is now the totem of contemporary Satanism. The pentagram, that familiar logo of both orthodox Satanists and disaffected teens, originated as a rough outline of Baphomet’s head.

The statue itself is impressive: almost nine feet tall, and weighing in at around a ton. The horned idol sits on a throne adorned with a pentagram, but it is the idol’s wings, and not his chair, that curiously evoke the Iron Throne from a certain celebrated HBO fantasy series. He has the jarring horns of a virile ram but the biceps of a guy who lifts four or five times a week. His legs, which are crossed, end not in feet but in hooves. It might seem more menacing if not for the two bronze-statue children standing on either side of him — a girl on his left; a boy on his right; both are looking up at him earnestly.

“Baphomet contains binary elements symbolizing a reconciliation of opposites, emblematic of the willingness to embrace, and even celebrate differences,” Jex Blackmore, who organized the unveiling, told TIME late Sunday night. In a sense, the statue is a stress test of American plurality: at what point does religious freedom make the people uncomfortable?

Blackmore directs the Detroit chapter of the Satanic Temple, one of the few coherent organizations in a field that’s otherwise disorganized and dogmatically nebulous. The Satanic Temple has chapters in Florida and Finland, in Italy and Minneapolis. Its headquarters are in New York, but the Detroit office is its first and largest outpost. Blackmore — who, by the way, uses a pseudonym for safety reasons — grew up in the Detroit metropolitan area and returned to the city to work with the Satanic Temple after attending a lecture on Satanism at Harvard.

Asked whether her group is a religious organization (or rather an anti-religious organization) she explains that it’s less of a church and more of an affinity group, built around what she repeatedly refers to as “Satanic principles.” It’s not the dogma you might expect. To quote from the group’s website:

The Satanic Temple holds to the basic premise that undue suffering is bad, and that which reduces suffering is good. We do not believe in symbolic “evil.”

Most vitally, though, the group does not “promote a belief in a personal Satan.” By their logic, Satan is an abstraction, or, as Nancy Kaffer wrote for The Daily Beast last year, “a literary figure, not a deity — he stands for rationality, for skepticism, for speaking truth to power, even at great personal cost.”

Call it Libertarian Gothic, maybe — some darker permutation of Ayn Rand’s crusade for free will. One witnesses in the Satanic Temple militia a certain knee-jerk reaction to encroachments upon personal liberties, especially when those encroachments come with a crucifix in hand. The Baphomet statue is the Satanic Temple’s defiant retort du jour.

“We chose Baphomet because of its contemporary relation to the figure of Satan and find its symbolism to be appropriate if displayed alongside a monument representing another faith,” Blackmore said.

The monument she refers to is a six-foot marble slab engraved with the Ten Commandments, controversially situated on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol. In 2012, state representative Mike Ritze fronted $10,000 out of his own pocket to have the marker installed in the shadow of the capitol’s dome, prompting the ire of those who believed it flagrantly violated the separation of church and state. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state of Oklahoma; the Satanic Temple fought fire with fire. If the Christians could chisel their credo onto public property, the argument went, why couldn’t they?

The state didn’t agree, and rejected the Satanic Temple’s petition to place Baphomet’s statute on legislative property. The point is now moot, though: a month ago, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the Ten Commandments monument violated the state constitution, a judgment that will probably stick in spite of an obstinate governor.

It seems there are battles left to fight, though. A Detroit pastor described the unveiling of the statue as “a welcome home party for evil.” A Catholic activism group in the city actively encouraged people to attend mass at a local cathedral to speak out against the statue — a pray-in, if you will. Meanwhile, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson recently signed a bill that will put the Ten Commandments on a similar monument on the grounds of the State Capitol in Little Rock. The Satanic Temple may be planning a road trip.

Read next: Preaching Pope Francis’s Politics May Be the Key to Becoming President

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TIME faith

The Gift of the Millennial Catholic to the Church

There seems to be a generation of non-ideological, millennial Catholics just waiting to renew Church and society alike

Dire predictions about the future of Catholicism in the United States are presently (and perhaps always have been) omnipresent. Can the Church sustain a public presence in the world with a declining national demographic, especially among millennials? Will the nation-state impinge upon the religious freedom of those practicing Catholicism? Is the Church at a point in which she must disengage from public life and nurture among herself the faithful remnant?

As a theologian influenced by Augustine, I tend to read cultural signs very realistically. I am worried about declining Mass attendance, as well as the drop in sacramental marriage and infant baptism. I see Catholic universities and colleges too often willing to give up their particularity for the sake of empty words like excellence and prestige. I wonder about the undergraduate students with whom I work whose account of human flourishing are devoid of an integral Catholic vision. In other words, I worry.

But, in the end, I cannot maintain my sourpuss disposition about the future of Catholicism in the United States. Though sociology can report upon the dire state of present Catholic practice, it cannot predict the future of the millennial Church just now coming into positions of leadership in Church and society alike. At Notre Dame, I encounter every semester undergraduate and graduate students who have chosen the Catholic Option. These students have immersed themselves in the theological tradition of the Church. They upset traditional categories of liberal and progressive by singing Latin polyphony on the weekends, spending summers in Calcutta serving the poor, and taking courses where they learn to critique forms of conspicuous consumption. They write plays about the perils of eating disorders, organize conferences around the effects of pornography, and feel deeply uncomfortable belonging to either the Democratic or Republic party.

They eschew a form of clericalism in which ordination bestows every human gift possible; yet, they love priests, seeing them as signs of an alternative way of happiness in the world, of radical self-gift. They are frustrated and even angered by approaches to catechesis that did not treat them as thinking Catholics. They are tired of tepid preaching, bad liturgical music, and churches that are modeled off of the latest shopping mall. They read John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis — at the very same time. They are philosophers, scientists, engineers, lawyers, and those who give themselves over to full ecclesial ministry as priest or lay person. They get married and have families, offering their particular talents in the context of parishes throughout the United States. They have encountered a Catholicism that is not reducible to party politics but offers an integral vision of human life.

Yet the problem in today’s Church is a reticence to invite these very millennials into positions of leadership. National ministry organizations, as well as the USCCB, continue to bemoan the absence of millennials in the Church only to pass over the remarkable millennials already in the Church. Catholic universities seem at times unwilling to employ these post-ideological millennials as faculty members and staff, changing the tenor of the discussion relative to Catholic identity. Parishes often see these millennial Catholics as passive recipients for the reception of sacramental grace, rather than active disciples, who could be catalysts for parish life — preachers and teachers for the present generation. Rather than study millennials as some foreign entity in our midst, the Church would do well to employ their particular genius for our time.

So, I am cautiously non-pessimistic about the future of Catholicism in the United States, because there seems to be a generation of non-ideological, millennial Catholics just waiting to renew Church and society alike. They are not perfect (and they need formation). They are not some universal salve for the administrative, pastoral, and theological bungles that often take place within the Church. But, they serve as sacramental signs of a form of integral Catholicism, which can move us past old arguments and old wounds toward the renewal of the American Church and, indeed, of the world itself.

This article originally appeared on Patheos

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Religion

Preaching Pope Francis’s Politics May Be the Key to Becoming President

Vatican Pope Francis'
Massimo Valicchia—NurPhoto/AP Pope Francis during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican City, on June 24, 2015.

Christopher Hale is executive director at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial.

Many candidates—Catholic or not—are seeking ways to tie themselves to the pope's vision

To get elected in 1960, John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, was forced to tell the nation that he wouldn’t take orders from the pope. In 2016, no such separation will be needed. With a record number of Catholics seeking the presidency and the wildly popular Pope Francis visiting the nation this fall, many candidates—Catholic or not—are seeking ways to tie themselves to the mission and vision of this Argentinian pontiff.

The times have changed. With a Catholic vice president, six Catholic Supreme Court justices, a Catholic Speaker of the House, and a large number of Catholics in Congress, the golden age of Catholicism in American politics has arrived. This would have been unimaginable just a few decades ago. Kennedy was the first Catholic president. Irish-Catholic Al Smith likely lost the 1928 campaign because of his religion.

This ascendency of Catholics to the forefront of American politics has only been accelerated by the groundbreaking papacy of Francis. His September trip to the U.S. will be a major event of the 2016 presidential primaries.

Politicians and candidates are likely scheming how they can best utilize the pontiff’s first trip to the U.S. to push forth their agendas. Francis’s trip isn’t about politics, but it would be naïve to ignore the political implications of a visit during which he is expected to lift up his recent encyclical letter on the care for God’s creation, the religious obligation to defend the dignity of immigrants, the poor, and the unborn, and the moral scandal of social inequality and of an economy that kills.

The political pinnacle of his trip will be his Sept. 24 address to Congress. If his recent trip to Bolivia is any indication, the 2016 candidates better pay attention. Since the beginning of his tenure, Francis has asked politicians around the world to change the conversation from horserace political issues to core issues that are foundational to the common good: “I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor! It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons.”

This will be a message that will push candidates of all political stripes to challenge their parties’ political ideologies that too often are rooted in radical individualism. “The pope offers a message that is inspiring and challenging,” says John Gehring, the Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, and author of an upcoming book about Pope Francis. “He is making new again what is ancient religious teaching about the common good at a time when our politics and culture are shaped by a libertarianism on the left and right.”

If polling data released Thursday showing support for Pope Francis’s messages is any indication, following the way of Francis isn’t just a ticket to heaven but maybe to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, too.

Read next: Hillary Clinton, Republicans Play Different 2016 Gender Cards

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Religion

The Path to Redemption for Our Criminal Justice System

President Barack Obama, alongside Charles Samuels (R), Bureau of Prisons Director, and Ronald Warlick (L), a correctional officer, tours a cell block at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, on July 16, 2015.
Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images President Barack Obama, alongside Charles Samuels (R), Bureau of Prisons Director, and Ronald Warlick (L), a correctional officer, tours a cell block at the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, on July 16, 2015.

Rev. Dr. Serene Jones is President of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York.

We must first address the underlying issues

President Barack Obama’s historic visit to a federal detention facility last week focused America’s attention on the brutal realities of our criminal justice system. Yet this broken system is only a symptom of an even more brutal American reality: white supremacy.

Until we accept and address this underlying cause, systemic problems including unfairly long mandatory minimums, racialized police brutality, harsh prison conditions, and unnecessary obstacles upon release, will continue to plague our nation. Like an incessant game of whack-a-mole, addressing one will only cause racism to rear its evil head in another equally pernicious place.

Every one of us needs to look deep into our souls and into our social systems to heal the wounds from our racist culture and fix our criminal justice system. This is slow, hard work—and it’s necessary.

As a Christian minister and president of Union Theological Seminary, I look with great hope to the Christian story as one that, at its heart, is a story of redemption. It’s the promise that even in our brokenness, our sins are forgiven. Why is it then that when it comes to our criminal justice system, we act in punitive ways, never in redemptive ways? Why do we continue to practice retributive justice, when we could move toward restorative justice?

Too often people with a criminal record are never given a second chance after they have paid their debt to society. In many places, returning citizens are unable to register to vote, discriminated against in employment and housing, and given an effective scarlet letter.

We must create a justice system that reflects the God-given dignity of every person and gives everyone a chance to flourish upon return to the larger society—a justice system that looks beyond prison to the active work of redemption in our society. We must eliminate the box on housing and employment forms asking whether someone is a convicted felon. We must ensure quality publicly funded employment and training programs for citizens returning from incarceration. We must eliminate mandatory minimums so that we have a criminal justice system where the punishment fits the crime. And we must ensure that all citizens have the right to vote.

Legislation that accomplishes these goals would be a good start. But ultimately we need not only policy change, but also change of hearts and minds as it relates to the dignity and value of human life. We will never solve the underlying cause of these problems—this generation’s manifestation of racism and bigotry—until we all believe in the equal worth of every human being.

The good news is that our society at large can find redemption, too. In the Christian story, we have a promise from God that we can overcome the viciousness of white supremacy still very much alive in our American democracy.

I applaud Obama for his work on this issue, and I’m hopeful that federal legislation will be passed to create a better criminal justice system. I am also heartened by the growing bi-partisan and cross-religious commitment to this work. But we can’t stop at legislation or we will fail to create the real and necessary change and healing so badly needed in our broken society.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Food & Drink

Best Made-Up Holiday Ever? Celebrate ‘Pie & Beer Day’ on Friday

Pie with pint glasses of beer
Tim Hill—Alamy

Because Pie, Beer & Chocolate Day would just be overkill.

Pioneer Day, held annually in Utah on July 24, is an official state holiday commemorating the day in 1847 when Mormons entered the Salt Lake Valley. There are parades, reenactment plays, festivals, and fireworks throughout Utah to celebrate, and most businesses and government offices are closed.

But because Pioneer Day is tied to a specific religion—the original pioneers being celebrated were all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fleeing oppression in the East—not everyone feels included. So sometime around a decade ago groups of (presumably non-Mormon) friends began hosting “Pie & Beer” Day parties as an alternative, to have some fun and make the most of what’s traditionally been a day off from work.

Why pie and beer? Beyond the brilliance of combining two things many people love to consume, it’s a play on words: “pie and beer” sounds a lot like “pioneer.” “Pie and Beer Day was created as a counter culture alternative for people that don’t fit into the established green jello and hand cart mold that has been around for generations,” the Utah Beer Blog explains. As for how to celebrate Pie & Beer Day, it’s as simple as this: “Gather friends and/or family – bring pie and beer – have and consume. It’s been this way for years and it’s a formula that has proven to work.”

As for what kind of pie to consume, traditional pie-pies like apple and blueberry are most often on the table, but pizza pies and meat pies are fair game as well. Root beer is just as welcome as ales, lagers, and stouts too. Pie & Beer Day, you see, is very inclusive.

While Pie & Beer festivities can take place anywhere, last year saw the first large-scale celebrations, and the 2015 edition will be even bigger. (It helps that July 24 this year is on a Friday.) Local radio station KRCL, which hosted a pie-and-beer tasting fundraiser on July 24 last year at the Beer Bar in Salt Lake City, is doing so again this Friday. A $20 “Pie Pass” provides five pieces of pie from local bakeries (craft beer samples cost extra).

The Salt Lake Tribune has rounded up a half-dozen other Salt Lake City saloons and breweries that are likewise hosting “Pie & Beer” specials on Friday, with brews and slices of pie starting at $2.50 each.

Those who celebrate Pie & Beer Day are quick to point out that the festivities aren’t meant to mock Mormonism or any religion. “We’re poking the bear a little bit, but we’re not disrespectful. It’s about kind of accepting the confines of our culture while celebrating our rebellious spirit,” Leslie Sutter, owner of Huntsville’s Shooting Star Saloon, which has held Pie & Beer Day specials for five years, told the New York Times last year.

Come to think of it, it’s pretty hard to argue against pie and beer. If you don’t love one, odds are you have quite a fondness for the other. As for the many, many among us who are enamored with both with equally high intensity, well, Friday will be quite a holiday indeed.

TIME Religion

Israel’s Paradox: Powerful yet Imperiled

David Wolpe is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

Strength alone is not a guarantee of safety

The current anxiety over the recent Iran nuclear deal is a reminder that the Jews are in a paradoxical situation—they are a powerful, imperiled people.

In comparison, the Palestinians, the most familiar adversary of Jews, are a relatively powerless people, but not imperiled. Their population keep increasing, and no serious commentator thinks the Jews plan to or have ever committed any sort of genocide against them.

The Iranians, who have emerged as the most formidable foe of Israel in recent years, are powerful and not imperiled. Yes, sanctions have left their economy in tatters. Yes, they have fought some powerful regional enemies, including Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the growing power of ISIS. But no one has ever seriously suggested that a wrong step by the Iranian regime might find the world free of Iranians.

Yet Jews do have such fear. It begins in an historical legacy. Simon Rawidowicz, the late Jewish philosopher, once wrote an essay called Israel: The Ever Dying People. He recounts a parade of prominent Jewish voices throughout history who believed they would be the last generation of Jews. One Hebrew poet lamented that no more would people speak Hebrew and be able to read his verses. That was right before the modern state of Israel revived the language for an entire nation. The tone of the essay is essentially optimistic—after all, the predictions have thus far been proven wrong—yet Rawidowicz recognizes that in many, localized instances, the lament was true.

The book Synagogues Without Jews chronicles synagogues throughout the world where there are no longer Jewish congregations to sustain them. Most of those vanished communities were destroyed by the Holocaust. Many Jews from Arab lands were chased out and had their lands and goods confiscated (a historical injustice rarely mentioned in recounting the wars of 1948.) Others were so small that time, demography, and other factors—including voluntarily leaving for Israel where they could have a full Jewish life—ended once-living communities.

Few Jews today are at the whim of hostile governments. In the U.S., the Jewish community is powerful, thriving and free. Although it has concerns about dwindling numbers, that is a factor of choice and commitment, not persecution and expulsion. And Israel, of course, is a formidable regional power.

Nonetheless, that is but a part of the story. There are about 14 million Jews worldwide. They have still not fully recovered from the losses of 70 years ago, when a full third of all the Jews in the world were killed. And the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe reawakens old fears, as does the alarming rise in anti-Semitic stereotypes and hatred throughout the Muslim world.

So we are witness to a paradox known to a healthy person who has once been mortally ill. Such a person can never be in full denial again. He knows that the body can be vigorous and strong and succumb in an instant to a variety of ailments or accidents. Someone looking at the state of Israel might see a powerful army, high-tech weaponry, and a society ready to mobilize. But inside the state, the view is of one surrounded by nations who wish it gone, 17-year-olds patrolling the borders, and Iran strategizing to increase its influence as it eyes the possibility of a nuclear bomb.

It has been said that there are two great tribes, the sick and the well. Similarly among nations, there is sometimes a disconnect between the threatened and the secure. Strength alone is not a guarantee of safety. For America, surrounded by oceans and friendly neighbors, the extent of Israel’s fear may seem excessive. But for Israel, being powerful and being imperiled is the reality of living in a very dangerous neighborhood.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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Katy Perry Isn’t the Only One Who Wants to Live in a Convent

The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary property in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. Singer Katy Perry sought to purchase the property.
Nick Ut—AP The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary property in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. Singer Katy Perry sought to purchase the property.

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Repurposing religious buildings should be done with sensitivity and purpose

I moved into a convent 10 years ago this summer.

My roommates were not Catholic sisters, but other recent college graduates, who sometimes acted a little too much as if we were still living in a college dorm. But most of our time was dedicated to service of our community—teaching, leading afterschool programs, counseling pregnant teens and gang members, working with the elderly—just as the sisters who preceded us in the convent had once done.

The news that pop star Katy Perry wants to buy a former convent in Los Feliz has me thinking about my days at Amate House, a full-time Catholic volunteer program in Chicago. The Los Angeles Times broke the story that two nuns are blocking the archdiocese from selling the estate to Perry, who wants to live there. Early coverage of the story centered on the sister’s disapproval of the “I Kissed A Girl” singer.

My fond memories of convent living, though, make me wonder if the question of whether Perry is a suitable successor to the sisters misses the point. As our society become less connected to religious institutions, it may be more important than ever for communities to think creatively and sensitively about how to make use of formerly religious spaces.

I had never imagined that I would live in a convent. Amate House operates three houses, two of which were convents, with both male and female volunteers, and it is part of the Chicago archdiocese. But I approached it more like Peace Corps or Teach for America: an opportunity to do something special, learn about life in the inner city and give back—not to live out my faith. I identified myself as a “practicing-but-not-believing Catholic.” I had volunteered with my high school youth group through college, but I was more interested in Buddhism than Christianity.

Though I defied typical categories—neither fully Catholic nor a religious “none”— my experience reflects the trend of young Americans disaffiliating from institutional religion and forming their own religious identities and understandings.

My grandmother, in contrast, grew up wanting to be a Catholic sister. Unfortunately for her (but thankfully for me), she lacked the education to join a religious congregation. Instead, she got married and raised my father and his four brothers.

Seeking to understand my recently deceased grandmother’s devotion—why would a woman voluntarily commit her life to a patriarchal church?—I wrote about Catholic sisters for a class in college. The nun in her nineties that I profiled couldn’t explain her vocation other than as a call from God.

Her order had once occupied a huge motherhouse in my hometown and sent teachers to schools throughout the Midwest. In northwest Iowa, she had taught art to a budding cartoonist who would go on to work for Disney and draw the genie in Aladdin. But by the time I visited, they had moved to a smaller house, essentially a nursing home for sisters.

Their grand old motherhouse became Loyola University Chicago’s education school. The sisters were happy that a Catholic institution was continuing their legacy, but then Loyola moved to sell the property to a developer that planned to raze the convent and put in single-family homes.

The city intervened, and the building still stands as senior housing. But the sale of convents and churches to developers is not unusual. Around the same time, my parents moved into a development in a neighboring suburb that had been built on the grounds of a former convent. And when I lived in a convent, my window looked out on a Protestant church that had been converted to condos.

Such examples will become more common as people move away from institutional religion. Places that once brought together a community become individual units, our architecture seeming to reflect our spiritual trends.

Yet, many still long for a sense of togetherness, even if in untraditional ways. My convent roommates and I were not all regular churchgoers, despite living above a chapel where daily mass was held. Our “church” came in the form of meals, reflection nights, and service to the broader community.

But buildings can’t be preserved just for community. In exchange for our service, our work sites paid Amate House small fees to cover our living expenses, including our convent housing. Another solution is to make churches into community arts centers, renting space out to nonprofits during the week. Both situations provide a win-win for religious institutions and nonprofit organizations.

A year or so ago, I met with two sisters in Chicago who were in the process of opening a migrant shelter in an old convent, supported by an interfaith organization. They told me what Pope Francis had recently said at Centro Astalli, a refugee center in Rome: “Empty convents are not for the church to transform into hotels and make money from them. Empty convents are not ours, they are for the flesh of Christ: refugees.”

Intrigued by this tension between money and mission, I applied to and received an International Reporting Project fellowship to find out if Pope Francis had affected Italy’s welcome of migrants. Visiting Centro Astalli and other refugee centers around Rome, I met many migrants living on the street or in abandoned buildings, unable to find work or housing in their new country. Two men showed me how they survived while homeless in Rome, sleeping at Termini train station, passing their days in a park behind the Colosseum and seeking services at churches and convents.

For my last few days in Rome, I checked into a convent hotel along their daily path, a few blocks from Termini. Once again, I found myself in a spartan single.

My convent hotel was clean and comfortable, European beds being what they are. And for not much more than the price of a hostel, I had a private, quiet space.

Four sisters lived on the top floor, and one of them told me that they make themselves available to travelers for either logistical or spiritual concerns. Many orders consider hospitality to pilgrims as part of their mission. In addition to tourists, they host student groups and families of patients from a nearby hospital. And the hotel helps fund their work in the missions.

Yet, when I saw the generous breakfast spread for what seemed like a handful of guests, I couldn’t help but think of the homeless migrants I had met on the streets of Rome. If the government, churches, or nonprofits paid for even a few migrants’ room at this convent, I wondered, how would the tourists staying there react?

Some argue that the pope’s statement against convent hotels reflects the male hierarchy’s desire to control the hard-earned assets of women in religious orders. In Los Angeles, the Katy Perry story is more about who manages the proceeds of the sale— the nuns or the archbishop—than whether Perry or someone else is the next owner of the convent.

I, for one, would trust a group of sisters more than the archdiocese to put the millions earned from the sale to good use. Yet the sisters’ buyer, a driver of gentrification who is also currently refurbishing the former Pilgrim Church into a hotel and restaurant, is no more likely than Perry to transform the convent into a homeless shelter.

As religious institutions decline, not all religious buildings will survive. But as someone who enjoyed living in a convent—temporarily—I would hope that some could be transformed into shelters, art centers, homes for nonprofit or volunteer organizations or other projects that benefit the whole community.

With a little creativity, Catholic sisters’ spirit can live on in a very concrete way.

Megan Sweas is the editor at the USC Center for Religion and Civil Culture, and a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. She is author of Putting Education to Work: How Cristo Rey High Schools are Transforming Urban Education. Reporting for this story was supported in part by the International Reporting Project.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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