Religion

A new religious statue in the town of Davidson, N.C., is unlike anything you might see in church.

The statue depicts Jesus as a vagrant sleeping on a park bench. St. Alban's Episcopal Church installed the homeless Jesus statue on its property in the middle of an upscale neighborhood filled with well-kept townhomes.

Jesus is huddled under a blanket with his face and hands obscured; only the crucifixion wounds on his uncovered feet give him away.

The reaction was immediate. Some loved it; some didn't.

Nate Phelps, son of Westboro Barptist Church founder Fred Phelps
Nate Phelps

The pastor of the much-reviled Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, has died at age 84. Phelps' message became synonymous with hatred. The pastor and his family made it a point to carry signs at funerals saying, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” They showed up to events with signs that read, “God Hates Fags.”

Nate Phelps is the sixth of Fred’s 13 children. He describes his father as verbally and physically abusive. When he was 18, Nate ran away from home and from religion.

In recent years Nate found himself publicly squaring off with his father and siblings to reverse their legacy of intolerance. He lives in Calgary, Canada, where he has become a public speaker who champions LGBT rights and raises awareness about the connection between extreme religion and child abuse. He is currently writing a book about his life and is the subject of an upcoming documentary. He spoke with Dick Gordon in 2012. The story, "Son of a Bigot," was featured on Salon.com.

Listen to Nate Phelps' conversation with Dick Gordon from 2012:

Here are some highlights of the conversation:

What was your childhood like?

Kristin Bedford

Photographer Kristin Bedford spent five weeks living with the followers of Father Divine and learning about their religion. She photographed their lives. Her exhibit, The Presence of Father Divine, has been postponed.

Apostles of Reason by Molly Worthen
http://global.oup.com/ / Oxford University Press

    

Evangelical Christians are a diverse group with similar questions but vastly different answers. 

The Nasher Museum brings Doris Duke's Islamic art collection in Hawaii to North Carolina.
Doris Duke Foundation

Doris Duke, heiress to the American Tobacco Company fortune, built a sprawling estate in Hawaii in the 1930s. She named her secluded getaway Shangri La and she spent the rest of her life filling it with Islamic art. After her death, Shangri La was opened to the public.

Duke released a new study that looks at the high depression rate in clergy members.
public domain

A new study from Duke shows that clergy have a higher rate of anxiety and depression than the national average. The study, conducted by the Clergy Health Initiative at Duke Divinity School, surveyed all United Methodist Clergy in North Carolina and found that their depression rate was 8.7 percent, which is higher than the national average of 5.5 percent. Anxiety rates were 13.5 percent.

http://www.katharineashe.com
http://www.katharineashe.com / http://www.katharineashe.com

In Katharine Ashe's latest book, "I Married the Duke," the heroine Arabella takes passage on a ship through the English Channel and meets a rough and tumble sailor who is not what he seems. 

Secret identities and characters in disguise are some of Katharine Ashe's favorite tropes.  Perhaps because the writer herself is not what she seems.

Ashe has received acclaim and popular success as a romance novelist.  But she leads a second life as Katharine Brophy Dubois, a visiting assistant professor in the History Department and Religion Department at Duke University.

Charles Lindquist
Duke Clergy Health Initiative

Like their good friends the Baptists, the Methodists love a good covered dish event. Any church gathering can serve as a reason to bring out the cakes, cookies and casseroles, and in rural North Carolina, that puts church leaders, like Pastor Charles Lindquist, in an awkward position.

“People used to say, ‘get up there in the front of the line’ and you had this feeling of 90 pairs of eyes staring at you to see whose food you were going to take,” says Reverend Lindquist. “So you tried to take some of everything.”

Cover of 'Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks' by August Turak.
Columbia Business School Publishing

Augie Turak is a successful businessman with two software companies under his belt. For the past 17 years, he’s studied the business strategies of a group of Trappist Monks living in South Carolina.

Will Willimon, professor of the practice of Christian ministry at Duke University.
http://www.spdlc.org/faith-life-continues-with-william-willimon-february-4

Will Willimon has served at Duke University in a variety of roles for decades, but he always left to continue his calling as a Methodist minister.

He knew from an early age that he had a special connection to God.

"I think I always had an extraordinary sense of the divine," he said.

Though, he said that his fundamentalist upbringing in rural South Carolina scared him off from faith for a while.  

"I sort of decided that Christianity was for people who weren't very good at thinking things through," he said.

When he went off to Wofford College, he was exposed to a religous studies professor who helped him see a different view of Christianity.  

Rabbi Raachel Jurovics

For years, Raleigh Rabbi Raachel Jurovics cared for a Torah scroll looted by the Nazis from a Czech town she thought had been destroyed. As it turns out, the town is still there, and the residents have restored the synagogue that was the scroll's original home.

Kaaba
Turki Al-Fassam / flickr

About 26,000 Muslims live in North Carolina, a 30 percent increase during the past 10 years. At the same time, the post 9/11 fear of Islamic terrorism continues to dominate people's views of the Muslim religion and people in their community.

The Rev. Dr. James Forbes spent 18 years as the senior minister of the Riverside Church in New York City, one of the nation’s most prominent pulpits,  but his journey began in North Carolina. Dr. Forbes grew up in Raleigh, and in the 1960s, he pastored churches in Wilmington and Roxboro.

Photo Given To The State of Things By Jeanette Stokes

While growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Jeanette Stokes never imagined she would become a minister. After all, as a young girl, she had never even seen a woman lead a congregation. But she eventually followed her faith, fulfilled her ambition, and helped other women to better nurture their own spirituality.

Elaine Neil Orr
nigerianfaithful.org

Elaine Neil Orr was born and raised in Nigeria, the daughter of Baptist Missionaries. When she began writing her memoir about 10 years ago, her mother gave her a keepsake – the 1853 diary of the first Baptist Missionary in Nigeria. This artifact spoke to Orr, and it was the inspiration for her first novel, “A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa” (Berkley Trade/2013).

Spanish catechism for the Catholic Church
book cover, amazon.com

Today, Pope Francis officially became the 266th Pope for the Catholic Church, and the first representative of the New World. The 265 men who served before him were all European, but Pope Francis was born in Argentina, where he continued to serve until the church tapped him for the top job in Rome.

http://equual-access.blogspot.com

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act opened up a host of protections for people with disabilities. Amongst its gains, it banned workplace discrimination and forced government and commercial spaces to become more accessible.

Though some may argue religion has no place in politics, Nancy Petty, pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, says that faith can have a powerful role to play.

“I think that religion in political life of our society can be a very healthy thing when it engages people in dialogue,” she said in an interview with Frank Stasio on The State of Things.

Pauli Murray
Leoneda Inge

The Durham community celebrated the life of Pauli Murray last evening. But this year the celebration marked the Episcopal Priest’s sainthood.

A proposed amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage and civil unions has divided religious communities. For our series examining the arguments over the amendment, Isaac-Davy Aronson spoke to two North Carolina faith leaders.

Isaac-Davy Aronson: Michael Curry is the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. He opposes the amendment.

Michael Curry: This is coming out of my faith, as a Christian, as an Episcopal bishop, as an African American man, you don't do harm to people.

The word “cult” comes from a Latin root word that translates into “ritual.” But in the modern era, the word has acquired derogatory connotations – used to describe spiritual, political or social groups that challenge conventional beliefs. In North Carolina, seven people have been charged in the death of a woman with connections to a Durham congregation that has been characterized as a cult. Could use of that word in the news coverage of the case influence its outcome?

Korean Catholics in the Triangle will soon have a new place to worship.

For years, Korean Catholics like Whansu Kang have been gathering at the St. Michael’s church in Cary. That should change this fall when the first phase of the Saint Ha-Sang Paul Jung Catholic Church is expected to be completed. It will give members of the Korean Catholic community their own space. Kang says the new space will give Korean students and visitors to the Triangle a place to turn to:

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