Religion News Service: Church Goes ‘Wild’ as Believers and Seekers Head for the Trees

This is an interesting article about “wild” Christian churches that hold their worship services out in nature, instead of in human-made buildings. The things these people have to say are quite interesting and refreshing to read, but there is one thing that ruffles my feathers a little:

Wild Church leaders are careful to distinguish what they do from paganism.

“My tradition is Christian but my objective is not that people become Christians but that they find a way to connect with holiness that is authentic for them — an expanded way of living and an expanded sense of Christ,” says Loorz.

First, there is actually zero difference between Paganism and what these people are doing, especially if we take Christopagans into account. (I’m sure that some mainline Christians would probably agree.) By definition, worshiping out in nature and combining spirituality with environmentalism is inherently Pagan, whether you bring Jesus into it or not. It’s also interesting that so many of the ministers for these “wild” churches are women, which is yet another strong similarity to Paganism.

Secondly, Victoria Loorz states in the quote above that she is not here to “bring people to Christ,” but to help them reach some kind of spirituality that works for them personally. Far be it from me to debate with Christians on their own theology, but this is a most unusual stance for Christians to take. Usually they argue that Jesus is “the only way” and that nothing else can provide “salvation.” Loorz’ statement here sounds less like something a pastor would say and more like a quip from a Wiccan high priestess. In many Pagan circles, individual adherents are encouraged to find their own ways of connecting with nature and the spirit world. So once again, this does not sound like a Christian church so much as it sounds like a Pagan coven.

I’m not arguing that these “wild” churches should start calling themselves Pagan (or Christopagan), or even that they are necessarily doing anything wrong. I fully support the idea of more Christians going out into the woods for Sunday worship, instead of buying up real estate and never paying any property taxes. But, it would be nice if these ministers could give a little more credit to the Pagan community and to Christopagan writers for coming up with this idea long before they ever did.

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Religion News Service: 10 Months On, the Babies of Rohingya Rape Survivors Arrive

This is a heart-wrenching story about what life is like for Rohingya Muslim women in Bangladesh. Many are rape victims and are often blamed by their own husbands and families for somehow allowing themselves to be “tainted.” Some of them are so scared of what will happen or be done to them that they try to hide their pregnancies for as long as they can, putting themselves at severe medical risk. And quite a few of them feel completely alienated from the unborn children growing in their wombs. I can’t even imagine the horror of being forced to carry some rapist’s baby to term, or to feel that your own body does not belong to you. And if you think it’s bad enough that grown women are made to deal with this bullshit, many of these girls aren’t even teenagers yet.

If there’s one thing that men have consistently failed to understand throughout history, it’s that women have always had it much harder than us. This is even true at the reproductive level. All males have to do is ejaculate; once that’s done, we’re free to go back into the wild and find other mates to canoodle with. Women, on the other hand, have to menstruate, lactate, and carry babies in their bellies for nine whole months. And then there are all the cultural associations that go along with this. In cultures that are especially patriarchal, menstruation is treated as something disgusting and shameful; a woman is considered less valuable if she miscarries or can’t have children; and if she is raped, it is her own fault for not running away fast enough. It is the apotheosis of stupidity and backwardness that any population should think this way about its mothers, sisters, wives, and/or daughters.

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CNN: Japanese Cult Leader Shoko Asahara Executed for Tokyo Sarin Attack

Aum Shinrikyo is a Japanese doomsday cult that was founded by Shoko Asahara in 1984. This is the group that committed the horrific Tokyo subway sarin attack in 1995, which would be remembered as the deadliest incident in Japan since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (at least until the Myojo 56 building fire happened in 2001). Asahara’s followers believe that Armageddon will arrive in the form of a nuclear attack by the United States upon Japan, and that they can send people to heaven by killing them. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but honestly it’s all a bunch of random Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, and New Age tidbits that Asahara threw together, presumably while in the midst of some hellish fever dream. If you’d like to learn more about Aum Shinrikyo and their bizarre crimes against nature and humanity, I highly recommend listening to episodes 15 and 16 of the podcast Cults, hosted by Greg Polcyn and Vanessa Richardson.

For better or worse, the Japanese authorities reported this morning that Asahara and six other members of his cult have now been executed (by hanging), after 22 years of being in prison. I am against capital punishment (plus, I’m pretty sure Japan just gave Asahara the “escape” that he wanted), but hopefully this will bring some closure to the families of those who died during that ghoulish subway attack in 1995.

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CNN: McConnell Says Federal Efforts to Prevent School Shootings are Limited to Appropriating Funds

“You would think, given how much it takes to get on an American plane or given how much it takes to get into courthouses, that this might be something that we could achieve, but I don’t think we could do that from Washington, I think it’s basically a local decision,” said the Kentucky Republican, who is a staunch Second Amendment advocate.

It’s funny how conservatives seem to think that banning abortion or same-sex marriage should be federal decisions that are handed down from on high; yet when it comes to  things like guns and the safety of our children while they are at school, they fall back on the old “Local government is better” routine. Considering that Kentucky has just cut dental and vision coverage for nearly 500,000 Medicaid recipients, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Mitch McConnell apparently thinks mass murder is a more humane and effective population control method than educating kids about contraception or allowing women to terminate their unwanted pregnancies.

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Religion News Service: Spirit of Mythical Princess Looms Over Thai Cave Crisis

This article is about a fascinating indigenous religious tradition that is playing a part in how people who are local to the area are coping with the mysterious disappearance of the boys’ soccer team in Thailand. Here’s hoping that the demigoddess who is associated with these caves is watching over those boys and will help them to be found very soon.

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