Media coverage of George Windsor's baptism gave the impression that baptism is about conformity. Baptism began in a far more radical way, before its domestication by the powerful. Since then, many people have rediscovered baptism's original subversive force, as a sign of dedication to the kingdom of God – and a rejection of the kingdoms of this world.
Not long before he died in August last year (2012), the Catholic Archbishop of Milan and papal candidate Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini's final comments on the Church were that its leadership was “200 years out of date” - bureaucratic, pompous, autocratic, inflexible and seemingly remote from the spirit of Christ on key issues.
Christianity and the Law have been in a more or less constant state of relational flux over the course of history, observes barrister Andrew Worthley, considering two of the recent European Court of Human Rights cases brought on grounds of religious discrimination. The idea that iron-clad secular law and immutable religion are on a collision course misunderstands both law and religion, as well as the nuances of history and of texts, he suggests.
Along with Ekklesia associate Carla J. Roth (who has a special interest in legally-related church and society issues), I am attending the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland meeting in Edinburgh this week, both as a media representative and also in a networking capacity.
Very frequently, discourse about religion - which, with the changes in perception taking place in the world over the past decade has come back onto the global and political agenda with great force - remains stuck in a series of un-enlightening polarities.
US society is rife with "religious exceptions" or exemptions, notably in relation to tax breaks, says Martin E. Marty. Now "ministerial exceptions" can be added to the list. The generally free ride given religious institutions even in a “secular time” should inspire thought: With all its contradictions, the United States remains a generous place in which religions can prosper. They would do well to serve the common good freely and openly.
From my point of view, one of the major stories from 2011 has to be the growth of the Occupy movement - which in many places, not least London, has shown itself to be more than a ragged protest. Rather, it is a movement looking to make a sustained, subversive impact on our dominant political and economic processes.