Religion news 5 June 2024

Image credit: Church of Scotland

Non-practising Anglicans are ‘ideal Reform voters

Researchers from the Theos think tank say that if Nigel Farage wants to make a pitch for a religious vote, then he should pitch to non-practising Anglicans. In a Religion Media Centre briefing, Paul Bickley, Theos’ head of political engagement, said their analysis of the British Election Study, the UK’s longest-running social science survey, showed that “cultural Anglicans” who do not practise the faith are the most authoritarian and right-leaning group in the survey. He said they were “the ideal Reform voter” — fuelled by a sense of nostalgia. But practising Anglicans go towards a different political agenda, perhaps because their religious practice re-enforces messages such as caring for others.  The briefing heard from representatives of different faith traditions on the issues that concern them. Muslims’ historical support for Labour is at risk over response to the Israel-Gaza war; In the Jewish community, some are still suspicious of Labour while others return; younger Sikhs are moving to Labour while the older generation sticks with Conservatives; for Hindus, there are particular concerns over tax, racism and immigration; and for Christians, social issues around asylum seekers, poverty and the importance of family are emerging as key issues. Read more here and view the briefing again through links here

Taxes are a blessing, bishops tell Sunak and Starmer

More than 20 prominent Christian leaders, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams of Oystermouth, have signed an open letter to the leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties urging them to “seek the welfare of the nation through fairer taxation”. The JustMoney Movement, urges the leaders — including the bishops of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Stepney and Barking as well as charity bosses, academics and theologians — that the next government should work towards reforming the tax system so everyone contributes a fair share, and help to shift the narrative on tax, so it is seen as a blessing and not a burden. Lord Williams said: “It’s time to challenge the narrative about taxation as some sort of irrational imposition by a distant and greedy government and connect it again with our basic responsibility for one another in society. But this can’t happen unless people trust the system to be both fair and effective”.

Hindu nationalist Modi returns with majority cut

The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has been re-elected for a third term, but not by the landslide that his Hindu nationalist party expected. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was on track to win 241 out of 543 elected seats – 60 fewer than 2019. Opposition parties said voters had sent a clear message after his Hindu nationalist party lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in a decade. The BJP, part of the National Democratic Alliance coalition, won 2,866 seats; 272 were needed to secure a majority. In his own constituency, representing the Hindu holy city of Varanasi, Modi was re-elected by a margin of 152,300 votes — compared with nearly half a million votes five years ago. And the BJP conceded defeat in Ayodhya, where Modi opened the Grand Ram temple on the site of a 16th-century mosque demolished in 1992 by a Hindu crowd, Reuters reports.

Mother Miriam and the Nuns for Trump

Donald Trump has an unlikely ally in his bid to become President of the United States for a second time — a nun from the extreme fringes of Catholicism. Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God has gathered a group of “Nuns for Trump” to crusade for his re-election and openly praises his works from the pulpit, Unherd reports. Trump’s lead among white Catholics continues to grow in the US, with support reportedly up 12 points over Biden. Dr Andrew Chestnut, professor of Catholic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, said: “Catholics have moved to the right for the same reason as Evangelicals are already there: the perception of a declining standard of living due to immigration and a departure from traditional Christian values.”

Anniversary of Golden Temple massacre

The 40th anniversary of the attack by the Indian Army on the Golden Temple complex of Amritsar has been marked with prayers by Sikhs all over the world. The attack, codenamed Operation Blue Star, involved an assault with tanks and heavy artillery on the holiest Sikh shrine. Thousands of pilgrims had gathered inside the temple, to mark the anniversary of the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev in 1604. It is estimated between 5,000 and 7,000 Sikhs died in the action, which went on for days. Writing in SikhNet, Tarlochan Singh, a former MP and chairman of the National Commission Minorities of India, said Sikhs “till eternity” would never forget “this shameful act” by the Indian Army attack on the temple.

A great place to be Jewish says journalist MBE

Jewish journalist Justin Cohen received the insignia of the MBE from the Prince of Wales yesterday and called for greater unity between Jews and Muslims. Justin, who has worked for Jewish News for 24 years, was made an MBE for his work in promoting remembrance of the Holocaust and encouraging members of the Jewish and Muslim faiths to work together in the UK. He said: “Thinking at this point that Jewish-Muslim relations have failed because there are issues with it, is a dereliction of duty. For anyone who’s a proud Jewish Brit or Muslim Brit, we are going to be living together for many more years to come so there is a responsibility to continue those relations. Despite some reports to the contrary, Britain remains a very good place to be Jewish, far from the suggestions that people are running away or packing their bags.”

New Bishop of Exeter

Dr Mike Harrison, currently Suffragan Bishop of Dunwich in Suffolk has been appointed the new Bishop of Exeter. He succeeds Bishop Robert Atwell, who retired last September. He studied mathematics at Cambridge, before training for ordination at Ripon College, Cuddesdon. He was ordained deacon in 1990. Dr Harrison said: “Devon holds a special place in my heart and I’m looking forward to working with its amazing churches and their communities to share the gospel message of hope, joy and wonder.” Last year, the Church Times reports, Dr Harrison expressed his support for the introduction of blessings for same-sex couples.

Redwood glass chapel saved from landslide

A celebrated glass chapel, the wedding venue of both Beach Boy Brian Wilson and Hollywood star Jayne Mansfield has been dismantled after a devastating landslide on the Californian coast, The Guardian reports. The Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes was built in 1951 to a design by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright Jr and at Christmas was designated a National Historic Monument. It is hoped that the structure of glass, steel and redwood can be rebuilt on stable ground.

Bible-carrying Presley’s good book sold for $120,000

Elvis Presley’s golden-embossed Bible has sold at auction for $120,000. It was discovered when his father Vernon and cousin Patsy sorted through his effects at his home, Graceland, Memphis, after his death in 1977. “He was a Christian, and most people don’t know that,” Presley’s stepbrother, Billy Stanley told Faithwire. “When I say ‘Christian,’ he was a Bible-carrying Christian … wherever he went, he took the Bible with him.” Pages highlighted with the singer’s most studied scriptures including this passage from Job 31: 24-28: “If I have put my trust in gold or said to pure gold, ‘You are my security,’ if I have rejoiced over my great wealth, the fortune my hands had gained, if I have regarded the sun in its radiance or the moon moving in splendour, so that my heart was secretly enticed and my hand offered them a kiss of homage, then these also would be sins to be judged, for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.”

Prison chaplain sings as she skydives

Church of Scotland minister Jill Clancy (pictured) is on cloud nine after successfully completing an 11,000ft skydive to raise money for a community choir. Mrs Clancy, head of the multi-faith chaplaincy team at HMP Barlinnie in Glasgow, said the experience was breathtaking and, after sending up a quick prayer before she leapt out of the plane in Fife strapped to an instructor, she burst into the Westlife song Flying Without Wings and spectators said they could hear her laughter all the way down. She has raised £1,775 to help take the Songs for All group to New York next year, to take part in Tartan Week activities. Choir members, who are aged from 11 to 82, hope to sing Scottish songs on the streets of Manhattan during the festival.


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