TIME Religion

Pope Francis’s Smaller Visits Have a Bigger Meaning

Pope Francesco meets the young in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele in Turin
Awakening Pope Francesco meets the young in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele in Turin

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

When Francis visits the homeless, immigrants, and prisoners he’ll likely be arguing for a new way forward for the church in the U.S.

The Vatican and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released Pope Francis’s official schedule for his September trip to the U.S. this morning. His trip will include visits to the the White House, Congress, and the U.N. But it’s his other stops that will highlight Francis’s vision of being “a poor Church for the poor.” In his six-day trip, the pope will visit the homeless in Washington, immigrants in Harlem, and prisoners in Philadelphia. If Francis’s trip to the U.S. looks anything like his previous overseas journeys, it will be these encounter with the excluded—not his 18 speeches and visits with the political and cultural elites—that will touch the heart of the American people and, God-willing, transform our nation.

Some of the most lasting images of Francis’s papacy include mourning the immigrants who drowned off the Italian coast of Lampedusa, visiting the slums of Rio, and praying with the street children of Manila.

After Francis’s Manila visit, Cardinal Luis Tagle said that the pope inspired that Filipino people to go “to the peripheries, to prison cells, to hospitals … to bring the light of Jesus.” Many Catholic leaders in the U.S. hope for the same. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., has even launched a campaign asking local Catholics to rededicate themselves to service in advance of the pope’s visit.

Pope Francis will likely ask more of Americans during his September visit. The church, Francis argues, “has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbours, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked.” Or as Francis says more bluntly: “A Christian who is not a revolutionary today isn’t a Christian.”

The success of Francis’s trip cannot be measured by increased service hours. Such reductionism misses the pope’s radical dream for our nation. When Francis visits the homeless, immigrants, and prisoners he’ll likely be arguing for an entirely new way forward for the church in the U.S. and the entire American people. It’s simple: Francis wants our nation to look more like God’s dreams for the world. What does this look like? It’s a place where “enemies are loved, the marginalized are given primacy of place, and the poor are blessed,” as Brandon Ambrosino writes.

This vision doesn’t just belong to Francis, but to Jesus Christ himself. In fact, in the Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that the nations will be judged by solely by how they treat “the least of these.” It’ll be this radical, uncomfortable message that Francis will carry with him from the existential peripheries to the places of power in the U.S. And if Jesus is right, everything depends on our response to his crucial challenge.

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

A Ramadan Plea to Overcome Muslim Stereotypes in America

Margari Aziza Hill is the co-founder of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, assistant editor at AltM, and co-founder of Muslims Make It Plain.

A multi-ethnic community puts Muslims in North America in a unique position to build bridges

As we honor Ramadan, the holiest month in the Muslim calendar, it’s important to look back at the history of Muslims in America to guide the context of fighting increased anti-Muslim bigotry in the U.S. today.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes are five times more common today than they were before 9/11. In 2014, we saw the chilling murder of 15-year-old Abdisamad Sheikh-Hussein, who was run down outside his mosque in Kansas City, Mo., by a man who had expressed his hatred for Muslims. In February 2015, the Chapel Hill shooting took the lives of three American-Muslim college students and shook the entire Muslim community. Last month there was an armed protest in Arizona outside of a mosque, and a Muslim community in New York was targeted by a man who plotted to burn down a school and mosque. The media is also filled with negative stereotypes about Muslims.

My concerns mirror those of so many Americans: As a parent to a rambunctious 3-year-old girl, I am concerned with her getting a quality education in a safe school, and I want her to live to her fullest potential and to have a positive self-identity. Yet when I taught an anti-racism workshop to 11-year-old girls last fall and asked about stereotypes, almost all of them answered that they faced some level of anti-Muslim bias. This reflects a recent survey from Muslim ARC, an organization that I co-founded, in which 82% of respondents said that they experienced racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination from society at large.

American Muslims with roots in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia face anti-Muslim bias mixed with a heavy dose of xenophobia. African American Muslims are often judged on two fronts: on the basis of religion and on the basis of race. But this native Muslim population has historical roots that go back hundreds of years. Around the time of the American Revolution, a large community of Moroccan Muslims lived and thrived in Charleston, S.C. Slaves in the Antebellum United States—nearly 15% to 30% of whom were Muslim—celebrated Ramadan in the South. From Thomas Jefferson owning a Quran to the mass adoration of Muhammad Ali to the reverberating social impact of Malcolm X, African American Muslims have always been a part of the American tapestry. The latest spate of hate crimes—both from white supremacists and from Islamophobes—belies this history.

Muslim Americans in America are a diverse group. The American Mosque Study breaks down the ethnicities of mosque participants in 2011 to 33% South Asian, 27% Arab, 24% African American, 9% Sub-Saharan African, 2% European (i.e. Bosnian), and about 1% each for white, Southeast Asian, Caribbean, Turkish, and Latino. This multi-ethnic community puts Muslims in North America in a unique position to build bridges.

This Ramadan, I abstain from drinking and eating during daylight hours and break fast at sun down with people from all walks of life. I have celebrated with Muslim Americans from Vietnam, Albania, Bangladesh, Morocco, and Mexico, and each exchange has helped me develop greater understanding of myself and empathy for others. As part of the African Diaspora, I feel a connection to African Diasporic communities in India, Brazil, Haiti, and Europe. As a Muslim, I have felt a closeness to Muslims from Eastern Europe, Yemen, Indonesia, and Azerbaijan. By celebrating our plurality, we demonstrate that there is no one single narrative for what it means to be Muslim and to be American.

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

5 Lessons America Can Learn From Black Churches

Obama's eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney offered an illuminating glimpse into African American religious life

When President Obama sang the first few notes of “Amazing Grace” on Friday at the memorial service for Rev. Clementa Pinckney and the other 8 victims of the Charleston massacre, the mourners inside the church weren’t the only ones who rose to their feet and joined him. In that moment, much of America stood to her feet as well, supported by the smooth notes of the organ; united, comforted and hopeful.

It’s safe to say that for that brief moment, America went to black church.

And it isn’t the first time. Every so often – when tragedy strikes or when politicians perform – the nation gets a peek into the pews of a place that has for centuries uplifted spirits and soothed broken hearts, even those broken by hatred and evil. At times like this, even in the rich tapestry of our multi-ethnic, multi-racial, religiously pluralistic society, there remains a distinct appreciation for the colorful, thick threads of the black church. It is, in this way, among many others, an authentically American institution.

But outside of these galvanizing, transcendent events, it’s an institution that gets very little love and even less respect.

The mainstream narratives about the black church range from civil rights era relic to a manipulative made-for-tv mega-church. In TV and movies, on Twitter and Vine, it is a hilarious punchline full of shouting, dancing and excessive displays of emotion. In either case, it is rarely more than a caricature, one that either comforts, humors or repels.

As a pastor’s daughter, church leader and passionate, card-carrying lifetime member of the big, diverse community we call the black church, I know how deeply sad this reduction is. To see people misunderstand an institution that taught me my history, grounded me in my identity and gave me the tools to grow into a woman as well as a civic and moral being, is to see millions of people misunderstand the most valuable gift I have ever been given – and miss out on so much more.

So if, after turning off the TV you’d like to take some souvenirs home from the space that our ancestors spent years building and that today many (myself included) still fiercely love and find sacred, here are five that mean a bit more than just an organ and a drumbeat:

1. How to build community. Born at a time where there were few other places for African Americans demonstrate their full humanity with one another, today, the black church is where the hard work of building beloved community never stops. Where people show up for one another and have hard conversations. Where people offer money, food, emotional care, physical presence and touch. In an era when support often means no more than a tweet or a text, the black church is one of the few places where people still regularly come together to nurture one another, grow together and meet each other’s needs. It is where people share stories, wrestle with ideas, fight, forgive, break bread, and,literally and figuratively, wash one another’s feet. Where tears flow freely and accountability matters. The American community could learn so very much from this model and how wonderful would it be if our human community did the same?

2. How to honor the young and the old. This one seems oddly specific, I know, but in a society that often patronizes the young and isolates the old, the church is one of the few spaces that brings both together and holds each up on a pedestal of preciousness. How many other public spaces in America would have found a 26 year old out with his 87 year old aunt on a Wednesday night as was the case with Charleston victims Tywanza Sanders and Susie Jackson? Where else in America facilitates regular intergenerational dialogue and lift up the voices of both in the process? In the black church, each generation is appreciated for its unique wisdom and insight. Both the very young and the very old typically have seats reserved for them, are encouraged to take on roles of leadership and esteem. And most importantly, their happiness and engagement are seen as key measurements for the health of the community as a whole. Would that society at large operate the same way.

3. How to survive. This one speaks for itself. In the face of bombings, fires, shootings and attacks of all kinds, the people remain. Many black churches, still today meet in basements, movie theaters, schools, warehouses and storefronts. They push through obstacles and hardships to come together and commit to never letting go of their faith, their community, and most importantly, the act of living. This doesn’t just “happen”. It isn’t some superhuman, magical force that allows black churches to bounce back and hold on. They practice the deliberate, strategic art of survival every single day.

4. The nobility of faithfulness. How easy it is for us to abandon the hard things today. Work, relationships, causes that don’t yield immediate results – all can be discarded and replaced with the click of an email. But from the black church we learn the importance of commitment and faithfulness. The practice of showing up Sunday after Sunday, Wednesday after Wednesday, week after week and year after year, come rain or come shine builds the character necessary to stick with the fights that our livelihood and democracy depend on.

5. How to fight a righteous fight. I am not sure when or where the narrative of the “prayerful and passive” church mother came from, but I’m convinced it was created by the same kind of people who created the pernicious welfare queen stereotype (Don’t quote me on that. It’s my own personal conspiracy theory.) The idea of the black church only bowing on our knees in times of hardship, is not only a historical and theologically inaccurate, but it flies in the face of those who, like Rev. Clementa Pinckney did, work every day to combat injustice armed with faith and sharp, strategic action. From time immemorial, the black church has known how to fight and has been inherently activist and political, even in its very formation. It is that same history that has always made the church such a beacon for those who have wanted to engage large swaths of black America in campaigns – and also for those who want to stop it’s powerful civic organizing through efforts as subtle as voting rights restrictions and as extreme as shocking acts of violence. It is this history that makes me hopeful about those within the church who lift up their voices against sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, and all other forms of oppression that still exist.

These lessons are certainly not unique to the black church or to religious institutions in general for that matter. But they are central to the identity of a place that is often only acknowledged for it’s music and jubilee with no regard for the experiences and practices that root said joy.

All of this is of course, when the church is at its best. The black church is, like most American institutions, deeply flawed. For as many for whom it represents freedom and love, it also represents pain and shame. Anyone who has been hurt by abuses of power and dangerous religious interpretations that shackle and bind instead of liberate has also learned lessons worth sharing. That history too, must be reckoned with. But even for those who longer call it home, the church will always be more than a caricature. It will always be more than something to watch and admire for it’s “soul”. If you dare look a little closer, you will find a well of joy that most only briefly drank from last Friday. Underneath the surface you will find that the black church in America is so, so much more than just a funeral and a song.

TIME Religion

Now’s the Time To End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions

Church
Getty Images

Mark Oppenheimer writes the biweekly “Beliefs” column for The New York Times and is editor-at-large for Tablet. He also reports for The Atlantic, The Nation, This American Life, and elsewhere.

The Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage makes it clearer than ever that the government shouldn't be subsidizing religion and non-profits

Two weeks ago, with a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges on the way, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah introduced the First Amendment Defense Act, which ensures that religious institutions won’t lose their tax exemptions if they don’t support same-sex marriage. Liberals tend to think Sen. Lee’s fears are unwarranted, and they can even point to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in Friday’s case, which promises “that religious organizations and persons [will be] given proper protection.”

But I don’t think Sen. Lee is crazy. In the 1983 Bob Jones University case, the court ruled that a school could lose tax-exempt status if its policies violated “fundamental national public policy.” So far, the Bob Jones reasoning hasn’t been extended to other kinds of discrimination, but someday it could be. I’m a gay-rights supporter who was elated by Friday’s Supreme Court decision — but I honor Sen. Lee’s fears.

I don’t, however, like his solution. And he’s not going to like mine. Rather than try to rescue tax-exempt status for organizations that dissent from settled public policy on matters of race or sexuality, we need to take a more radical step. It’s time to abolish, or greatly diminish, their tax-exempt statuses.

The federal revenue acts of 1909, 1913, and 1917 exempted nonprofits from the corporate excise and income taxes at the same time that they allowed people to deduct charitable contributions from their incomes. In other words, they gave tax-free status to the income of, and to the income donated to, nonprofits. Since then, state and local laws nearly everywhere have exempted nonprofits from all, or most, property tax and state income tax. This system of tax exemptions and deductions took shape partly during World War I, when it was feared that the new income tax, with top rates as high as 77%, might choke off charitable giving. But whatever its intentions, today it’s a mess, for several reasons.

First, the religious exemption has forced the IRS to decide what’s a religion, and thus has entangled church and state in the worst way. Since the world’s great religion scholars can’t agree on what a religion is, it’s absurd to ask a bunch of accountants, no matter how well-meaning. You can read part of the IRS’s guidelines for what’s a bona fide religion here; suffice it to say that it has an easier time saying what’s not a religion. The site gives the example of the rejection of an application from an “outgrowth of a supper club … whose primary activities were holding meetings before supper, sponsoring the supper club, and publishing a newsletter” but which professed a religious doctrine of “ethical egoism.”

On the other hand, the IRS famously caved and awarded the Church of Scientology tax-exempt status. Never mind that the Scientology is secretive, or that it charges for its courses; or that its leader, David Miscavige, lives like a pasha. Indeed, many clergy have mid-six-figure salaries — many university presidents, seven-figure salaries — and the IRS doesn’t trouble their tax-exempt status. And many churches and synagogues sit on exceedingly valuable tracts of land (walk up and down Fifth Avenue to see what I mean). The property taxes they aren’t paying have to be drawn from business owners and private citizens — in a real sense, you and I are subsidizing Mormon temples, Muslims mosques, Methodist churches.

We’re also subsidizing wealthy organizations sitting in the middle of poor towns. Yale University has an endowment of about $25 billion, yet it pays very little to the city of New Haven, which I (as a resident) can assure you needs the money. At the prep school I attended (current endowment: $175 million), faculty houses, owned by the school, were tax-exempt, on the theory that teachers sometimes had students over for dinner, where they talked about history or literature or swim practice.

Meanwhile, although nonprofits can’t endorse political candidates, they can be quite partisan and still thrive on the public dole, in the form of tax exemptions and deductions. Conservatives are footing the bill for taxes that Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit, doesn’t pay — while liberals are making up revenue lost from the National Rifle Association. I could go on. In short, the exemption-and-deduction regime has grown into a pointless, incoherent agglomeration of nonsensical loopholes, which can allow rich organizations to horde plentiful assets in the midst of poverty.

Defenders of tax exemptions and deductions argues that if we got rid of them charitable giving would drop. It surely would, although how much, we can’t say. But of course government revenue would go up, and that money could be used to, say, house the homeless and feed the hungry. We’d have fewer church soup kitchens — but countries that truly care about poverty don’t rely on churches to run soup kitchens.

Exemption advocates also point out that churches would be squeezed out of high-property-value areas. But if it’s important to the people of Fifth Avenue to have a synagogue like Emanu-El or an Episcopal church like St. Thomas in their midst, they should pay full freight for it. They can afford to, more than millions of poorer New Yorkers whose tax bills the synagogue and church exemptions are currently inflating.

So yes, the logic of gay-marriage rights could lead to a reexamination of conservative churches’ tax exemptions (although, as long as the IRS is afraid of challenging Scientology’s exemption, everyone else is probably safe). But when that day comes, it will be long overdue. I can see keeping some exemptions; hospitals, in particular, are an indispensable, and noncontroversial, public good. And localities could always carve out sensible property-tax exceptions for nonprofits their communities need. But it’s time for most nonprofits, like those of us who faithfully cut checks to them, to pay their fair share.

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

3 Ways Catholics Can Respond to the Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

People celebrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after the ruling in favor of same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson—Getty Images People celebrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after the ruling in favor of same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC.

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

'We must be a Church that listens before it speaks'

Friday’s Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage across the country presents an interesting moment for Catholics in the U.S. The church opposes gay marriage, and this likely won’t change even under Pope Francis the Troublemaker. But we also must acknowledge that this moment is a great joy for many Catholics—gay and straight. In recent history, many upstanding and faithful Catholics have said that they have heard the voice of Jesus say to them that the love between two persons of the same-sex isn’t sinful, but holy, sanctified, and blessed.

I myself struggle with this conundrum. There’s nothing more important in my life than being Catholic and a part of the universal Church of Jesus Christ. For me, it’s not just membership in a fraternal organization or civic group, but in a family that gives me my identity, my roots, and my wings. I take my faith’s teaching on every issue—including gay marriage—seriously, but I, too, can’t help but feel joy for my LGBT friends who celebrated Friday’s decision.

Many Catholics who experience these complex and conflicting feelings are wondering what the way forward could be. I think there are three important ways Catholics are called to respond to Friday’s ruling.

1. We must acknowledge God’s particular love for the LGBT community. Our faith tradition teaches that God has a preferential option for the poor and a bias for the excluded. We can’t be blind to the fact that many LGBT individuals and families have faced a culture of exclusion, hatred, and even death in our nation, around the world, and, yes, in the Church.

Jesuit Father James Martin said he thinks we have a long way to go to communicate God’s love for this community. “No issue brings out so much hatred from so many Catholics as homosexuality,” Martin wrote in a Facebook post Friday. “The Catholic church must do a much better job of teaching what the Catechism says: that we should treat our LGBT brothers and sisters with ‘respect, sensitivity and compassion.’ But God wants more. God wants us to love.”

2. We must be a Church that listens before it speaks. Last year, Pope Francis said that “we must lend our ears to the beat of this era and detect the scent of people today, so as to be permeated by their joys and hopes, by their sadness and distress.” As Franciscan priest Daniel Horan noted Friday, we do this so that the “joys and hopes” and the “sadness and distress” of others becomes our own.

When we listen to each other with big hearts, we can begin to overcome the unfair stereotypes that divide us. We can put to rest the great lie that everyone who opposes gay marriage is a bigot and that everyone who supports it is a bad Catholic. We can begin to understand and form ourselves again around the fundamental truths of our faith: that God loves us, that the Church welcomes us, and that Jesus walks with us.

3. We must work together to strengthen family life. As the Catholic Archbishop of Atlanta Wilton Gregory said so beautifully Friday, “The decision has offered all of us an opportunity to continue the vitally important dialogue of human encounter, especially between those of diametrically differing opinions regarding its outcome.”

One area where we all can work together on is building strong families, which is the fundamental cell of human society. There are many threats to family life here in the U.S. and around the globe. No matter what one thinks about gay marriage, we all can remain committed to strengthening family life against some of its greatest threats: an economy that kills, environmental exploitation, dictatorships of relativism, consumerism, superficiality, and indifference.

LGBT Catholics are a crucial part of this effort. Last year, the college of bishops gathered in Rome for the Synod on the Family and said that LGBT Catholic individuals and families have “gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.” We’ve experienced this reality for ourselves. LGBT Catholics teach our children the faith of Jesus Christ. They serve the poor in our soup kitchens and social service agencies. They minister to the sick in our hospitals. More than anything, they’re children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. As Catholics, we must be willing to work with everyone to give every child what God desires for them: a dignified life, a family, and a future.

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

Let This Inspire the LGBT Community To Be Something Greater Than We Once Were

People celebrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after the ruling in favor of same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson—Getty Images People celebrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after the ruling in favor of same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Gene Robinson is the retired Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, and the author of God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage.

It's my hope that the SCOTUS ruling inspires the LGBT community to work for the greater good of all who are oppressed

Growing up poor in rural Kentucky, the gay son of tobacco sharecroppers, I never dreamt I would see what we saw today from the Supreme Court. In those days, love between two men or two women was spoken of only in whispers, if at all. Today, the right to marry the one we love was shouted from the rooftops by the highest court in the land.

I received news of the Supreme Court’s marriage-equality decision while in Salt Lake City, this year’s site of the every-three-years General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Religion has been at the center of the debate about marriage equality, even though it was always civil, not religious, marriage that the LGBT community has sought through our civic institutions and secular courts.

The Episcopal Church has been more welcoming of LGBT people than many denominations and has long been on record as supporting civil marriage for couples of the same gender. But our theology and thinking about the religious sacrament of marriage has been less supportive. Full and equal access to the church’s sacrament of marriage for same-gender couples is high on our 2015 convention agenda, with changes proposed in our canons which would not only permit those marriages, but also offer a number of liturgical possibilities for blessing and celebrating holy matrimony. It’s an exciting time to be an American and an Episcopalian.

As a person of faith, I believe in a God who is always and everywhere working for justice. If God can’t find partners in that work inside the church, synagogue, and mosque, God will go outside religious institutions for allies in that justice work. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of marriage equality, religious people must discern whether or not God is working for justice for LGBT people, with or without the church, and whether or not to join God in that effort.

This discernment is important because much work remains in the fight for equality for our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends, family members and fellow citizens. Our country is still a patchwork quilt of rights for this segment of our American community. Yes, as of today, marriage equality is the law of the land, but in many states, someone who is married on Sunday can still be fired on Monday for being gay—with absolutely no recourse in the courts. That newly married gay couple can legally be denied lodging on their honeymoon or housing upon their return home. If you had told me 10 years ago that we would have national marriage equality before job protections for LGBT people, I would have told you that you were crazy! But that is the craziness we must live with for a little while longer, until we get this completely right.

The biggest question I have in the face of this stunning and wonderful development is this: Has the LGBT community learned, out of our own experience of oppression, the importance of working to end all oppression? Will we work for “justice for all,” or will we be content with justice for “just us?” Will we use our knowledge of what it’s like to be treated as second-class citizens to understand and ally ourselves with those who are gunned down because of the color of their skin? Will our now legally sanctioned families come to the aid of those immigrant families torn apart by deportation? Will we use our experience to work for those who live their lives in a wheelchair, or in poverty, or in the body of the gender not meant to be theirs?

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion, “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.” It is my hope that today’s Supreme Court ruling inspires the LGBT community to become something greater than we once were and work for the greater good of all who are oppressed.

The God of the Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—is believed to always be working on behalf of those who are marginalized, oppressed, and discriminated against. In violation of my own rule to never claim to know, for sure, the mind of God, I will venture to guess that it is as good a day for God as it is for God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children. And there even better days ahead, when the justice we taste today increases in our lives and in the lives of all of God’s children.

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

Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn To Live as Exiles in Our Own Country

Supreme Court
Susan Walsh—AP The American flag flies in the wind in front of the Supreme Court in Washington on June 22, 2015.

Rod Dreher is a senior editor and blogger at The American Conservative.

Voting Republican and other failed culture war strategies are not going to save us now

No, the sky is not falling — not yet, anyway — but with the Supreme Court ruling constitutionalizing same-sex marriage, the ground under our feet has shifted tectonically.

It is hard to overstate the significance of the Obergefell decision — and the seriousness of the challenges it presents to orthodox Christians and other social conservatives. Voting Republican and other failed culture war strategies are not going to save us now.

Discerning the meaning of the present moment requires sobriety, precisely because its radicalism requires of conservatives a realistic sense of how weak our position is in post-Christian America.

The alarm that the four dissenting justices sounded in their minority opinions is chilling. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia were particularly scathing in pointing out the philosophical and historical groundlessness of the majority’s opinion. Justice Scalia even called the decision “a threat to democracy,” and denounced it, shockingly, in the language of revolution.

It is now clear that for this Court, extremism in the pursuit of the Sexual Revolution’s goals is no vice. True, the majority opinion nodded and smiled in the direction of the First Amendment, in an attempt to calm the fears of those worried about religious liberty. But when a Supreme Court majority is willing to invent rights out of nothing, it is impossible to have faith that the First Amendment will offer any but the barest protection to religious dissenters from gay rights orthodoxy.

Indeed, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito explicitly warned religious traditionalists that this decision leaves them vulnerable. Alito warns that Obergefell “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy,” and will be used to oppress the faithful “by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”

The warning to conservatives from the four dissenters could hardly be clearer or stronger. So where does that leave us?

For one, we have to accept that we really are living in a culturally post-Christian nation. The fundamental norms Christians have long been able to depend on no longer exist. To be frank, the court majority may impose on the rest of the nation a view widely shared by elites, but it is also a view shared by a majority of Americans. There will be no widespread popular resistance to Obergefell. This is the new normal.

For another, LGBT activists and their fellow travelers really will be coming after social conservatives. The Supreme Court has now, in constitutional doctrine, said that homosexuality is equivalent to race. The next goal of activists will be a long-term campaign to remove tax-exempt status from dissenting religious institutions. The more immediate goal will be the shunning and persecution of dissenters within civil society. After today, all religious conservatives are Brendan Eich, the former CEO of Mozilla who was chased out of that company for supporting California’s Proposition 8.

Third, the Court majority wrote that gays and lesbians do not want to change the institution of marriage, but rather want to benefit from it. This is hard to believe, given more recent writing from gay activists like Dan Savage expressing a desire to loosen the strictures of monogamy in all marriages. Besides, if marriage can be redefined according to what we desire — that is, if there is no essential nature to marriage, or to gender — then there are no boundaries on marriage. Marriage inevitably loses its power.

In that sense, social and religious conservatives must recognize that the Obergefell decision did not come from nowhere. It is the logical result of the Sexual Revolution, which valorized erotic liberty. It has been widely and correctly observed that heterosexuals began to devalue marriage long before same-sex marriage became an issue. The individualism at the heart of contemporary American culture is at the core of Obergefell — and at the core of modern American life.

This is profoundly incompatible with orthodox Christianity. But this is the world we live in today.

One can certainly understand the joy that LGBT Americans and their supporters feel today. But orthodox Christians must understand that things are going to get much more difficult for us. We are going to have to learn how to live as exiles in our own country. We are going to have to learn how to live with at least a mild form of persecution. And we are going to have to change the way we practice our faith and teach it to our children, to build resilient communities.

It is time for what I call the Benedict Option. In his 1982 book After Virtue, the eminent philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre likened the current age to the fall of ancient Rome. He pointed to Benedict of Nursia, a pious young Christian who left the chaos of Rome to go to the woods to pray, as an example for us. We who want to live by the traditional virtues, MacIntyre said, have to pioneer new ways of doing so in community. We await, he said “a new — and doubtless very different — St. Benedict.”

Throughout the early Middle Ages, Benedict’s communities formed monasteries, and kept the light of faith burning through the surrounding cultural darkness. Eventually, the Benedictine monks helped refound civilization.

I believe that orthodox Christians today are called to be those new and very different St. Benedicts. How do we take the Benedict Option, and build resilient communities within our condition of internal exile, and under increasingly hostile conditions? I don’t know. But we had better figure this out together, and soon, while there is time.

Last fall, I spoke with the prior of the Benedictine monastery in Nursia, and told him about the Benedict Option. So many Christians, he told me, have no clue how far things have decayed in our aggressively secularizing world. The future for Christians will be within the Benedict Option, the monk said, or it won’t be at all.

Obergefell is a sign of the times, for those with eyes to see. This isn’t the view of wild-eyed prophets wearing animal skins and shouting in the desert. It is the view of four Supreme Court justices, in effect declaring from the bench the decline and fall of the traditional American social, political, and legal order.

We live in interesting times.

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TIME faith

Jewish Groups to Mark ‘Shabbat of Solidarity’ With Black Community After Charleston

In an unusual display of unity, the call comes from leaders in virtually every sect of American Judaism

A broad swath of American Jewish groups has declared Friday, June 26, to Saturday, June 27, to be a “Shabbat of Solidarity” with the African-American community, after the massacre of nine black churchgoers during a prayer meeting on June 17 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, S.C.

During this sabbath period, Jews will be encouraged to speak out “on the issue of racism in society and to express rejection of hateful extremism,” the organizations said in a joint statement. Congregations are also urged to connect with local AME churches to express compassion and support.

“We stand together as a united American Jewish community in calling for a Shabbat of important introspection and examination of racism in the United States,” Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt of Potomac, Maryland, who is the president of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Federations of North America, said in the statement. “We hope to convey our support to the African-American community nationwide and show all that we will not stand for violent acts driven by hatred.”

Weinblatt’s organization was joined by the American Jewish Committee; Hillel, a confederation of Jewish student groups; the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; and representative groups from the Orthodox, Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative sects.

As part of the day of solidarity, Rabbis Adam Stock Spilker and Shoshanah Connover of the organization Rabbis Organizing Rabbis, released a special Mi sheiberach, a traditional prayer for healing, that may be used in congregations across the country. The prayer asks for “healing to a nation in tears, to families and friends crying out in grief over nine precious souls — victims of racism and gun violence — taken from this earth too soon.”

The Solidarity Shabbat comes on the heels of a week already full of such events, with interfaith services held across the country, from Des Moines to Detroit to Long Island.

TIME faith

Noah’s Ark Theme Park Gets a Helping Hand From the Amish

noahs ark encounter park kentucky
Ark Encounter

Construction underway despite funding issues

An embattled ministry building a replica of Noah’s Ark in Kentucky is getting a boost, thanks to the Amish.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Amish communities in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania are helping Answers in Genesis—a non-profit Christian ministry that advocates creationism—build Ark Encounter, the multi-million dollar theme park that the ministry says will include a full-size replica of the Biblical ark.

The project, first proposed in 2010, experienced a setback late last year when Kentucky officials denied $18 million in tax incentives to the group. The state’s tourism board said the project had “evolved from a tourism attraction to an extension of AiG’s ministry” and that state incentives would violate the separation between church and state.

State officials cited the group’s hiring requirements, which mandated that future employees give a “salvation statement” and believe that God created the world. AiG sued the state, accusing it of discriminating against the group based on its religious views.

Still, construction is reportedly underway on the 510-foot-long ark even without the tax incentives with the help of a number of Amish workers, who are working on the ark’s wooden structure. AiG says any state incentives will go to future expansions of the park. It plans to open Ark Encounter in the summer of 2016.

TIME Spain

Spanish Town Finally Drops ‘Kill Jews’ Name

Will now be called "Castrillo Mota de Judios, or "Jews' Hill Camp"

A Spanish village with a name that translates to “Camp Kill Jews” has finally officially changed its name to Castrillo Mota de Judios, or “Jews’ Hill Camp.”

Residents of Castrillo Matajudios first voted to change the name last year, with 29 of the village’s 57 inhabitants voting in favor of the change. The name change has now been approved by the regional government of Castilla y Leon, the Associated Press reports.

The town’s former name, which dates back to 1627, was especially puzzling due to the fact that the town was founded by Jews fleeing from pogroms in 1035. Today, the town has no Jewish residents, despite its official shield containing the Star of David.

Spain has a checkered history of treatment towards Jewish residents, including a 1492 edict that ordered Jews to convert to Catholicism or leave the country. In early June, Spain’s lower house of parliament approved a law paving a pathway to citizenship for descendants of Jews who were forced to leave the country during the inquisition.

According to the AP, researchers believe the village actually got its name from Jewish residents who wanted to bolster the believability of their conversion.

[AP]

Read next: The Forgotten Brutality of Female Nazi Concentration Camp Guards

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