TIME faith

Pope Francis to Families: Get Off Your Screens and Actually Talk to Each Other

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE
Pope Francis waves to faithful as he arrives for the private Audience to the Accountants and Accounting Experts in Aula Paolo VI at the Vatican, on November 14, 2014. Andreas Solaro—AFP/Getty Images

The Pontiff says technology should be used to enable conversation, not hinder it

Pope Francis wants families to know that technology isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.

“By growing daily in our awareness of the vital importance of encountering others, we will employ technology wisely, rather than letting ourselves be dominated by it,” the Pontiff said Friday in his annual message for World Communications Day.

In other words, cut down on your screen time, kids.

Not that mothers and fathers aren’t beyond reproach: “Parents are the primary educators,” he said, “but they cannot be left to their own devices.”

“The media can be a hindrance if they become a way to avoid listening to others, to evade physical contact, to fill up every moment of silence and rest, so that we forget that ‘silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist,'” Pope Francis said.

This isn’t the first time the Pope has implied those family-centric Apple ads might be misleading. “Maybe many young people waste too many hours on futile things,” like “chatting on the Internet or with smartphones,” he said last year.

Even in 1967, long before the dawn of the selfie, Pope Paul VI remarked upon the rapidly expanding world of communications, noting how television and other media leave “their deep mark upon the mentality and the conscience of man who is being pressed and almost overpowered by a multiplicity of contradictory appeals.”

It’s like they say in Proverbs 18:2: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion [on Twitter].”

TIME Religion

Pro-Life Is More Than Being Pro-Birth

Christopher Hale is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial.

For the pro-life movement to be successful, it must expand its agenda.

As the 42nd Annual March for Life commences in Washington today, thousands of Americans will descend on Capitol Hill to protest legalized abortion in the United States. Their concern is just, and their protest is appropriate. For decades, our leaders in government have promoted policies that perpetuate a culture of exclusion toward the unborn. It’s unconscionable that in 2015 in the United States of America the death of an unborn child is still considered a measure of progress.

Sadly, the pro-life movement has been largely unsuccessful in changing the minds and hearts of the American public. Four decades after the Roe v. Wade decision, a majority of Americans support abortion rights.

Perhaps it’s because too often this venerable movement has been associated with partisan politics. But if understood correctly, this crucial social justice issue should be at the heart of both of the progressive and conservative agenda. Progressives believe in a big society, where no one is excluded and no one is left behind. And conservatives believe in the the dignity and autonomy of each individual person. Both of these political paradigms should include a home for the unborn.

But for the pro-life movement to be more successful going forward — especially among young people — it must shift directions and expand its agenda.

To be truly pro-life, we cannot simply support a child’s right to be born, but also the right of the mother to expect substantial support from her community and from her government. We can’t be pro-life and anti-woman. It doesn’t work. And we can’t be pro-life and anti-government. It doesn’t work.

And to be truly pro-life, we must realize that the attacks on human life might begin at conception, but they don’t end there. In today’s world, being pro-life must be more than being pro-birth. In this economy that kills, we must acknowledge that anyone who isn’t seen as valuable in the economic advancement to the United States is often left behind, including the unborn, but also the elderly, the poor, the immigrant, and the uninsured. These excluded persons must too be at the heart of the pro-life movement.

It’s simple in the end: When you support the immigrant, you support life. When you support economic justice, you support life. And when you support universal health care rights, you support life.

If today’s anti-abortion movement transforms into tomorrow’s pro-life movement, it can transcend the ideological divisions that plague our nation and proclaim a simple truth that can bind our people — especially the young — together: that everyone deserves a life, a family, and a future. But to do so, this pro-life generation must protect every person’s right to live, not just be born.

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 faith

These Are the Most Godless Cities in America

Boston
Boston, Mass. Getty Images

Based on how much residents read the Bible

At the end of the age, according to Matthew, the angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous. Well, they should have an easy time of it: The wicked are, roughly speaking, already somewhere north of St. Louis.

That’s where the least “Bible-minded” cities are in America, at least according to a study released Wednesday by the American Bible Society.

Cities in the Northeast appear to have strayed furthest from the upright path, with wicked dens of iniquity like Providence, R.I., New Bedford, Mass., Albany, N.Y., and Boston, Mass., leading the list for least Bible-minded. Also on the naughty list are San Francisco, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and gambler’s haven Las Vegas.

The American Bible Society measures “Bible-mindedness” by how strictly survey respondents read the book and believe in its accuracy. A spokesperson told TIME last year that the study poses respondents the question, “How many times do you read the bible outside of church or a synagogue?”

The most Bible-minded respondents say they read the Bible in the last week and believe strongly that it is accurate. The top city for biblical stricture was Birmingham, Ala., followed by Chattanooga, Tenn. All the 10 most-Bible-minded cities are, naturally, somewhere in the Bible Belt.

The American Bible Society found that only 27% of Americans are Bible-minded.

The data was based up on telephone and online interviews with 62,896 adults over a 10-year period ending in August 2014.

Read next: How Evangelicals Are Changing Their Minds on Gay Marriage

TIME portfolio

Exploring the Mawlids of Egypt

Cairo-based photographer Mosa'ab Elshamy goes inside the spiritual celebrations

It was late 2013 when Mosa’ab Elshamy wandered back into the Al-Hussein Mosque in Old Cairo. As a young boy, the photographer, who recently joined the Associated Press, accompanied his grandmother as she and others worshipped. Some people were holding onto the shrine of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, while others were reciting passages from the Quran or weeping openly. “Inside, it doesn’t really feel like time has passed. The emotions that are there, the sounds that you hear—you can walk in and it’s going to feel exactly the same,” he tells TIME. Outside, the differences are apparent: more cafés, more traffic, more security.

Elshamy was looking for something to photograph that was a bit less restrictive than Cairo’s streets had become after Egypt’s revolution in 2011. And he found it. For more than a year, he documented the celebrations, or Mawlids, of saints and other holy figures of the Sufis around the country, marking his longest personal project to date.

Some 15 million of Egypt’s 90 million people are followers of the mystical Sufi philosophy of Islam. Worshippers at the Mawlids greet the shrines throughout the year to talk about their wrongdoings in the hopes that they can absolve them of their sins, Elshamy says. Many people will also go to ask for things, like women struggling to have children or men who cannot find jobs. Those who reject this religious philosophy say it’s a form of shirk, or idolatry, that has no place in Islam. (Attacks against shrines aren’t uncommon, especially in areas controlled by radical extremists.)

Part of what attracted Elshamy to the observances is the intimacy and spirituality of it all, displayed in ways that aren’t usually seen elsewhere in Egypt. “You don’t [typically] get that image of men, but here you see people almost publicly being proud of this vulnerability,” he says, “and I thought that was great.” Another main reason are the celebrations that surround them. Prayers and emotions displayed inside the mosques are met with rowdy festivities outside, including playgrounds and vendors, musicians and dancers. “It’s a lot bigger than just a religious celebration.”

The last Mawlid he photographed this past October was at the shrine of Abul-Hassan Al-Shazly. He was buried where he died—in Humaithara, of the Red Sea Governorate—and the mosque was built around him, so his worshippers travel there every year to honor him. Part of the celebration, Elshamy says, involves climbing one of the mountains the religious figure apparently stepped on, each day near sunset, then praying and singing while overlooking the mosque before descending to spend the night around the complex.

The weeklong celebration can coincide with the ‘Id al-Adha festival, so they’ll mark that occasion at the same time.

Elshamy says the project is what restored his faith after “a very tough year” in photography. “It was the year [when] many colleagues left Egypt or stopped photographing or switched to a more comfortable genre. I think everybody had to adapt in a way, when it was obvious how much more difficult it is becoming to just be on a street with a camera, or just try to document a protest or a clash.” This was his way of adapting, shooting something that was new and non-political and that he could continue to do freely.

“In a way this has been a bit of a silver lining, to discover things like this scene that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to,” he says. It all goes back to why he takes photos in the first place: “Seeing for yourself and keeping a record of what you see.”

Mosa’ab Elshamy is Cairo-based staff photographer with the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter @mosaaberizing. Mikko Takkunen, who edited this photo essay, is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism. Andrew Katz is a homepage editor and reporter covering international affairs. Follow him on Twitter @katz.

TIME Religion

Pope Francis Confirms He Will Visit DC, NYC and Philly

Pope Francis waves from the popemobile after leading a Mass at Rizal Park in Manila
Pope Francis waves from the popemobile after leading a Mass at Rizal Park in Manila on Jan. 18, 2015. Erik De Castro—Reuters

His itinerary may include a Mass at Madison Square Garden

Pope Francis confirmed Monday that his trip to the United States this fall will include stops in Washington and New York City, in addition to the previously announced visit to Philadelphia.

Details of his itinerary are in the early planning stages, but organizers are already talking about appearances at the White House, the United Nations and Ground Zero, and even a Mass at Madison Square Garden.

One thing that is not in question: American Catholics can’t wait to play host to the hugely popular people’s pontiff…

Read more about this story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Ireland

Irish Minister for Health Announces He’s Gay

Irish Health minister Leo Varadkar, 36, who has publicly come out as gay, pictured here on Dec. 27, 2013.
Irish Health minister Leo Varadkar, 36, who has publicly come out as gay, pictured here on Dec. 27, 2013. Brian Lawless—Press Association/AP

The country is set to hold a referedum on marriage equality in May

Just months before Ireland is due to hold a referendum on marriage equality, the country’s minister for health has come out during a radio interview. Leo Varadkar told RTÉ Radio 1, an Irish radio station, that he was gay and would be campaigning in support of same-sex marriage in the lead up to the referendum in May.

“It’s not a secret — but not something that everyone would necessarily know, but it isn’t something I’ve spoken publicly about before,” he said during the Jan. 18 interview. “I just kind of want to be honest with people. I don’t want anyone to think that I have a hidden agenda.”

He added: “I’d like the referendum to pass because I’d like to be an equal citizen in my own country, the country in which I happen to be a member of Government, and at the moment I’m not.”

Ireland decriminalized homosexuality 22 years ago and same-sex couples have been able to enter a civil partnership since 2011, but not marry.

[RTÉ]

TIME Religion

Prominent Mormon Critic Says He Faces Excommunication From LDS

John Dehlin sits in his basement studio where he broadcasts his podcast at his home in North Logan, Utah on May 16, 2014.
John Dehlin sits in his basement studio where he broadcasts his podcast at his home in North Logan, Utah on May 16, 2014. John Zsiray—AP

John Dehlin claims he is likely to be censured or excommunicated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at a disciplinary hearing on Jan. 25

A prominent Mormon critic of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints says he is likely to be excommunicated for questioning the church’s teachings and for his support of same-sex marriage and ordaining women.

John Dehlin, the founder of the Mormon Stories Podcast, said in a post to his website that he is scheduled for a disciplinary hearing on January 25 and has been told that the likely outcome is an official censure or excommunication.

“While my family and I would prefer to be left alone by LDS church leadership at this time, I would much rather face excommunication than disavow my moral convictions,” he said in the post.

Eric Hawkins, a spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, declined to confirm the reasons for Dehlin’s hearing.

“We respect the privacy of individuals, and don’t publicly discuss the reasons why a member faces Church discipline. Those reasons are provided to a member by their local Church leaders,” he said in the statement. “It’s my understanding that in this case the reasons have been clearly spelled out in letters to John Dehlin. In the interest of honesty and transparency, he may choose to make those letters public.”

TIME politics

The Increasingly Irrelevant Christian Primary

Annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Held In D.C.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee speaks during the second day of the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord International Hotel and Conference Center March 7, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

Displays of religiosity have become increasingly public and de riguer in GOP politics, but the reality is that Americans are turning away from organized religion

Despite a long, slow decline in religious participation among Americans, do not expect Christian conservatives to light a candle rather than curse the darkness when it comes to politics. At least two likely contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, are calling for nothing short of a religious revival. “We have tried everything else,” Jindal recently told a group of Christian and Jewish leaders in Iowa, “and now it is time to turn back to God.”

Yeah, no, especially when it comes to politics. We really don’t need more moral instruction and biblical exhortation from elected leaders. Most indicators of social dysfunction—such as crime, sexual assault, and bullying—are declining. When it comes to politics, what we need is restrained spending, reduced and simplified regulation and taxation, and an embrace of social tolerance that allows diverse individuals to peacefully get on with their lives. If Republicans choose to nominate a candidate who talks as if voters are sinners in the hand of an angry God, they will alienate independents and even conservatives who are forming a large and growing “leave us alone coalition.”

As Americans turn away from religion, the hot-button issues that once divided voters are finding wide acceptance. Nearly 40% of Americans are “unchurched” and “essentially secular,” says religion researcher David Kinnaman, who oversaw a 2014 survey of more than 20,000 respondents. That’s only going to continue. Baby boomers are less devout than their parents, and Gen-Xers and Millennials are less observant still. “The younger the generation, the more post-Christian it is,” he told Religious News Service last October.

At the same time, gay marriage, pot legalization, and even abortion are becoming settled issues among voters. In 2004, just 42% of Americans favored recognizing gay marriage as equal to heterosexual unions. The figure today is 55%, according to Gallup. The trend is with regards to pot legalization, which a majority also supports. When it comes to abortion, about equal numbers of us describe ourselves at pro-choice and pro-life (each around 46%), but there has been no rise in support for banning the practice since it was legalized in the 1970s.

While there’s no reason to think that voters are clamoring for more religion in politics, Mike Huckabee will make exactly such a move the cornerstone of his candidacy if he chooses to run for president. The former governor has taken a leave of absence from his gig as a Fox News host while he ponders his options and promotes his new book, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy. He continues to view gay marriage as an abomination and just last fall threatened to leave the Republican Party if it did not “grow a spine” and defend the traditional definition of marriage.

That might sell a lot of books and draw an intense and loyal following on Fox News, but it has nothing to do with most people’s top political concerns. By vast majorities, Americans mostly care about things such as the economy, job creation, health care, and government spending. Those are the concerns that must be front and center for any successful candidate and party.

Which isn’t to say that politicians can’t be religious while advancing the limited government agenda that most Americans support. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is a bible-believing Christian who attended Baylor University, a Baptist institution. Yet the reason Paul is among the top-tier Republican hopefuls after just a few years in office isn’t because he can quote the Bible chapter and verse. It’s because he has foregrounded his libertarian bona fides by questioning the federal government’s spying on innocent citizens, refusal to rein in spending, willingness to intervene militarily all over the world, and continued enthusiasm for a failed war on drugs. People want less government and less intrusion on their day to day lives, not government bureaucrats weighing their children at public school and lecturing them about diet, as Mike Huckabee supports.

Similarly, the reason why Bobby Jindal, a Roman Catholic, is popular in Louisiana isn’t because he says he once performed an exorcism while an undergraduate. It’s because he has governed pragmatically and effectively, especially on issues such as school choice. As the libertarian Cato Institute notes in its latest report card on governors, “Jindal has been tight-fisted on spending,” the number of state employees is down 18% since he took office, and he opposes expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

It is a bizarre paradox that displays of religiosity have become increasingly public and de riguer in GOP politics as Americans turn away from organized religion. Republicans won big in the midterms not because they are the party of God but because President Obama and the Democrats overreached, overspent, and overregulated over the past few years. Republicans can win the White House in 2016, but only if they put forth a powerful agenda to address worldly problems while leaving religion where it belongs: in houses of worship.

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv and the co-author with Matt Welch of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America.

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 faith

Muslim Students at Duke Will Begin Chant of Weekly Call-to-Prayer

Move called unprecedented by one Islamic expert

Members of Duke University’s Muslim Students Association will begin chanting a weekly call-to-prayer from the bell tower of the school’s chapel this Friday, in what one religious expert called a first-of-its-kind development.

The chant, known as the adhan, will be “moderately amplified” from the chapel to alert the community of the weekly Friday prayer service. The Muslim chaplain at Duke Imam Adeel Zeb said in a statement that the call-to-prayer “serves as a reminder to serve our brothers and sisters in humanity.”

“The adhan is the call to prayer that brings Muslims back to their purpose in life,” Zeb said.

Christy Lohr Sapp, the associate dean of religious life at Duke’s chapel, said the broadcasting of the chant “represents a larger commitment to religious pluralism that is at the heart of Duke’s mission.”

“Our goal in Religious Life is to create a place where religious expression is valued and supported and to foster the spiritual development of the various communities on campus,” Sapp said in an email.

In Muslim communities across the globe, the adhan is broadcast up to five times a day—once for each of the five daily prayers. On Friday afternoons, Muslims gather for the congregational Jummah prayer. Princeton University Imam & Muslim Life Program Coordinator Sohaib Sultan called Duke’s announcement is a “wonderful recognition of the religious diversity at Duke,” noting that as far as he knows, the move is unprecedented.

“The Muslim call to prayer is a melodious chant that will be appreciated by anyone, regardless of faith, who has an ear for spiritual songs,” said Sohaib, who also authored the book The Koran for Dummies. “As far as I know this is unprecedented and a welcome first.”

At New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus, students are alerted of the call-to-prayer by Al Fajr clocks, which display prayer times and light up when the call-to-prayer is announced. The campus is located on Saadiyat Island where students can no longer properly hear the call-to-prayer broadcast throughout Abu Dhabi. At Emory University in Atlanta, the school’s Muslim Student Association broadcast the adhan throughout the month of February in 2010 during Islamic Awareness Month.

Not everyone is praising the announcement. Franklin Graham, a Christian evangelist and son of famed evangelical and Baptist minister Billy Graham, slammed Duke’s announcement in a Facebook post.

“As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism,” Graham wrote. “I call on the donors and alumni to withhold their support from Duke until this policy is reversed.”

Read next: Meet the German Activist Leading the Movement Against ‘Islamization’

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