Tag Archives: Catholic

Westboro Baptist Church: the ultimate hate group

Westboro Baptist Church always finds its way into the middle of controversy. From picketing the vigil for the victims of the Newtown shootings to claiming that the Boston Marathon bombings were God’s retaliation, the Westboro Baptist Church always finds someway to make a statement.

The Westboro Baptist Church claims that their beliefs are similar to the primitive Baptist tradition, a conservative branch FredPhelpsdeveloped in the early 19th century that follows the King James version of the Bible. The Westboro Baptist Church is described by most as a hate group. Most of the Westboro Baptist beliefs are similar to other Christian schools of though. The big difference between the Christian teachings and the Westboro Baptists teachings are their stance on homosexuality.

Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church said, “The modern militant homosexual movement poses a clear and present danger to the survival of America, exposing our nation to the wrath of God as in 1898 B.C. at Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Phelps believes that America’s new openness to homosexuality will be the downfall of religion and of our country. “They were raised on a steady diet of fag propaganda in the home, on TV, in church, in school, in mass media – everywhere – the two pronged lied. One, it’s okay to be WestboroBaptist4gay. And two, anyone saying otherwise, like Westboro Baptist Church, is a hatemonger who must be vilified, demonized and marginalized,” Phelps said in response to America’s children growing up with an open mind about homosexuality.

The rituals at the Westboro Baptist Church are similar to other religions including a weekly church meeting. However, the WBC has been centered on picketing and protesting since the early 1990s. WBC picketing has become more widespread including homosexuality, the Holocaust Memorial, September 11th, 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China, Pope Benedict XVI, Barack Obama, Al Gore, Catholic priests, Catholic church, Hinduism and Islam.

tumblr_m81v6myBeE1qk2dsto1_1280One thing that has become popular is the “counter protest” which started gaining popularity after the September 11th attacks. The Westboro Baptist Church showed up to picket the tragedy and one young man, Jared Dailey, stood across the street with a sign that read “Not today, Fred,” calling out Phelps on his insensitivity. After a few days, nearly 100 other people joined Dailey with American flags and anti-hate signs. When the WBC decided to picket the funerals of the Newtown shootings, people took to the internet to fight back at the church, writing letters to government officials and releasing a membership list with personal contact information of all of the WBC members.

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The Westboro Baptist Church is not affiliated with any particular denomination and has actually been rejected by many religions. The WBC mainly claims to have ties to the Southern Baptists because Phelps was ordained by a Southern Baptist Minister in 1947.

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Although there are no exact numbers, it is estimated that there are less than one hundred followers of the Westboro Baptist Church and the majority of the members are family. Phelps and his wife have 13 children together and those 13 children have married and have children of their own. Many of these offspring live in the family compound, while some do not except the WBC teachings and have moved away. The family compound is located in Topeka, Kansas where Phelps lives with his large family.

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Although the Westboro Baptist Church receives mainly backlash for their conservative views, the church was defended on the grounds of free speech by the American Civil Liberties Union. Even though the church has found an ally in one Union, most others are still disgusted by what the WBC’s actions and what it stands for. The federal government has made some moves to control the WBC. In 2012, California and the federal government set a 300 foot parameter around funerals the the WBC cannot protest within.

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Santeria: nourishing Orishas to become closer to God

You’ve heard in a Sublime song, but what is Santeria all about?

Santeria is an Afro-Caribbean religion that formed out of the slave trade in Cuba. Santeria is translated to “Way of the Saints” and it has some Catholic influences. It is considered “syncretic” because the religion blends elements from many different faiths.

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Santeria is based on the relationships between humans and powerful spirits called Orishas. Those who practice Santeria believe that Orishnas and the manifestation of Olodumare, their God. They believe that certain rituals can enlist the help of Orishas.

The religion is area in Cuba through Yoruba traditions that were brought to the country by the enslaved Africans. Santeria is an interesting blend of religions, because the enslaved did not convert, but instead blended religions. For a long time Santeria was a secret religion, but over the past 15 years it has expanded. The slaves kept their own rituals like dancing, drumming, speaking and eating with the spirits. Since the Cuban Revolution in 1959 it has spread to many other countries including the United States. The population of those practicing Santeria is unknown and there is no central organization. Santeria also does not have holy scripture. The religion is based in oral tradition and is passed through word-of-mouth.

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Some of the blending in Santeria comes from Catholicism. There are some Catholic influences on Santeria including the incorporation of some Catholic symbols. Sometimes those who follow Santeria are also Roman Catholic. Santeria also worships some of the Catholic Saints:mainpromo

  • Saint Barbara/ Shango: justice and strength, associated with lightning and fire
  • Our Lady of Charity/ Ochun: Yoruba goddess of the river, associated with water, yellow, sweets, money and love
  • Saint Lazarus/ Bablu-Aye: associated with the sick

One central element of Santeria is animal sacrifice. Followers sacrifice animals as food in order to build a good relationship with Orishas. The process of sacrifice brings the worshiper closer to the Orishna.santeria2 Those who practice Santeria believe that Orishas are similar to living beings. They need food, nourishment and praise in order to stay alive. Sacrifices are performed for life events like birth, marriage and death and also for healing. Animal sacrifices are completed in a certain ways; the animal is killed by cutting the carotid artery with a knife. After the ritual is performed, the animal is cooked and eaten. Those who practice Santeria see it as sharing the sacrifice with the Orisha. The Orisha is nourished by the blood and the worshiper is nourished by the meat. Sacrificial animals include: chickens, pigeons, doves, ducks, pigs, goats, sheep, and turtles.

Although there is no central organization, there are a some buildings and houses devoted to the faith. Rituals are usually done in a house called the casa or ile which is generally the house of a senior Santeria priest. Santeria priesthood includes both men and women because they can either be called babalorisha which means Father in the Spirit or iyalorisha which means Mother/Wife in the Spirit. They are also sometimes called Santero and Santera which is the Spanish translation of the work priest in the masculine and feminine forms.

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Mormonism: church centered around Christ, distorted by media

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Just months ago, Mormonism was everywhere; the presidential campaign with Mitt Romney, the TLC show Sister Wives and the center of many YouTube parody videos.

The Mormon church, usually called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or The Church of Jesus Christ, was founded in the 19th century. The Mormon church is centered around Christ, but brings together beliefs from other religions, such as the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christian churches. Mormonism has 13.5 million members world-wide.

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The church was founded by Joseph Smith in 1830 and developed by Brigham Young who arrived in Salt Lake City in 1847 after coming to the United States. Mormons believe that Joseph Smith received a revelation from God through an angel in the 1820s. Smith was persecuted for his beliefs and was put into jail more 30 times and was tarred and feathered. Smith died at 38 years old in 1844 after being mobbed by about 150 men while in an Illinois jail. Although Smith died at a young age, he had much success during his lifetime because the Mormon church grew from six to 26,000 members.Mormon-book

During the early nineteenth century the church was having financial problems and decided to use a new custom of tithing – giving one-tenth of the member’s income to the church. Tithing resulted in double the usual income and it helped to bring the Church out of debt by 1907.

The Mormons make Jesus central to their religion because they believe other religions have strayed too far from the vision of religion Jesus brought to us. The Mormon church is led by bishops, but Sunday worship is led by the people of the church and does not involve priests. The Mormon sacred texts include both the Bible and the Book of the Mormon – a book that tells the story of how God dealt with the ancient inhabitants of the American continent.

Mormons have a different view on God than Christians would. Mormons believe that God has a physical body and a perfected man. They believe that there is more than one God and that human beings have the potential to become like God after death. Douglas Davies, a professor of theology and religion at Durham University says,”Mormons believe God and human beings are of the same basic stuff but at different levels of progressive development. Everything that is, has always existed. There was no initial ‘creation’.” Mormons believe that three beings make up the Godhead and that these things are separate but work in a united way. These beings include:

  1. God the Father9a94c6e149724680d42e94c8c7c82862
  2. Jesus Christ
  3. The Holy Ghost

Mormons reject the idea of original sin and do not believe that humans are inherently evil. When humans sin they push themselves farther away from God. Mormons believe that humans are accountable for the sins they commit after the age of eight. Like most other religions, Mormonism opposes abortion, homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, pornography and gambling. Mormons also avoid tobacco, consuming alcohol, tea, coffee, and the use of drugs. Mormons believe that salvation is possible through their actions on earth and the grace of God. A portion of the work of salvation has already been completed by Jesus who atoned for our sins.

Mormons believe that human beings have three stages in life:

  1. Pre-existence as spirit children
  2. A time of probation on earth
  3. Eternal life with God the Father

Mormons believe that baptism is a necessary part of the religious life. A person must be baptized to receive salvation and one day return to live with God. Children are baptized at age eight. Mormon baptism includes total immersion into water to be cleansed of all sin and the recitation of prayers. The child or adult being baptized and the person leading the ceremony dress completely in plain white clothing.

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Missionary work is central to the Mormon life. In fact, about 40% of young men do missionary work. This missionary trips last two years for men and 18 months for women. After their trips are over the men receive the title of “Elder” and women receive the title of “Sister.”

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Marriage is central to Mormon life because they believe that God has ordered them to have children. Mormons also believe that God performed the first marriage. It is central to Mormon life because they believe that the family unit continues after death and that it is essential to salvation. Marriages are performed in a Mormon temple with a ceremony that lasts about 20 minutes called “sealing.”

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One major misconception about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that it accepts polygamy. We’ve all joked about it TLC’s hit show Sister Wives, but Mormons discontinued polygamy more than a century ago. The church actually excommunicates those who practice it.

Although polygamy has been discontinued BBC reports that there are about “30,000 people practicing polygamy in Utah, Montana and Arizona, who either regard themselves as preserving the original Mormon beliefs and customs, or have merely adopted polygamy as a desired way of life and not as part of the teachings of any church.” Although some legal action has been taken against these people, there has been little success because they maintain that polygamy is part of their First Amendment rights. One famous case was Tom Green who was sentenced to five years in prison after he claimed that he had three wives due to his religious beliefs. He had previously been excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1980.

Mormons prefer to burials over cremation. Family members recite prayers and dedicate the grave. Because Mormons believe that families are reunited after death there is usually less grief than normal at their funerals; their goodbye is more like a “see you later” and the funeral is a celebration of their time spent on Earth.

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