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COMMENTARY: Lent isn’t just a second chance at New Year’s resolutions

(RNS) So here we go again. It's that time of year _ Lent, when many Christians give something up. Often it's food, although my mom told me when I was a kid that giving up vegetables doesn't count.     A few years ago, as we approached Lent, a few of my friends (who during the rest of the year rejected religion), announced they, too, were giving something up. W...
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As one evangelical church ‘comes out’ for LGBT rights, others cast a wary eye

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) Pastor Stan Mitchell’s announcement that his evangelical GracePointe Church would fully affirm gay members met with a standing ovation from some, stunned silence from others, but everybody prayed together quietly at the end of it. A month and a half later, M...
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On Purim, are Jews obligated to give money to panhandlers? (COMMENTARY)

(RNS) While teaching an adult class regarding our obligation to preserve the “kavod” or dignity of panhandlers, a predictable question arose: When I give money to someone on the street, how do I know they won’t use it for drugs or alcohol? Other questions followed: * How many...
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Our Lady of Revenue: NYC churches go on the market, leaving parishioners cynical

NEW YORK (RNS) Our Lady of Vilnius Church, built by families of immigrant Lithuanian longshoremen, started out a century ago as a beloved worship space. Now, it’s a coveted real estate asset. In 2013, six years after the church was closed, it was sold for $13 million to one of the...
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Israel’s ultra-Orthodox women make uphill battle for parliament

JERUSALEM (RNS) Israel’s first political party created by ultra-Orthodox Jewish women is running a novel campaign for parliament: no media ads or endorsements by key rabbinical authorities, just word-of-mouth recommendations and faith. Yet the fact that women in the Haredi sect ar...
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Malcolm Boyd, the overlooked gay activist who pushed boundaries (COMMENTARY)

(RNS) The Rev. Malcolm Boyd, who died on Friday (Feb. 27) at the age of 91, lived three lives — each extraordinary. More extraordinary still is how he gave each up for the next. For the first third of Boyd’s life, he was an A-list producer in Hollywood’s golden age, most famously...
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Southern Baptists urge Obama to defend ‘the least of these’ against ISIS

WASHINGTON (RNS) Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd and former leaders of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination on Monday (March 2) called on President Obama to defend “the least of these” against the Islamic State, the militant Islamist group that’s also know...
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Buddhist monks’ cremation ceremonies break the bank in impoverished Myanmar

MAWLAMYINE, Myanmar (RNS) Two years ago, residents of the village of Taung Bone donated an estimated $120,000 to finance the cremation ceremony of Badana Kawnarnya, the chief abbot of a local monastery. By contrast, the average annual salary in Mon State, situated along Myanmar’s so...
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Ordain Women’s Kate Kelly loses last appeal; husband to resign from Mormon church

SALT LAKE CITY (RNS)  Ordain Women co-founder Kate Kelly has lost her final appeal to regain membership in the Utah-based LDS Church. The activist, who is pushing for female ordination to the all-male Mormon priesthood, received word Saturday (Feb. 28)  from her former lay leader...
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7 ways universities can begin to challenge anti-Semitism on campus

(RNS) I attended a university with many Jewish students. One year during Hanukkah, a student lit a menorah in his dorm room, left the menorah unattended, and accidentally set fire to his room. The next day, I overheard some students snickering in the cafeteria: “Do you think that...
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The death of 16 nuns and the allure of terrorism (COMMENTARY)

WASHINGTON (RNS) A group of armed fighters surround the convent, demanding the nuns leave the premises and renounce their faith. When the sisters refuse, they are publicly beheaded, saying prayers and singing hymns with their last breaths. Although it sounds like the latest atroci...
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