As we head into Martin Luther King birthday weekend, expect a flood of clips of his inspirational “Dream” speech. But for a full feast of his passionate rhetoric, treat yourself to a re-read of the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”  

For more than three decades, retired United Methodist Bishop Woodie W. White has written his own letter on race in America – to King.  This year’s birthday letter-to-MLK finds that, “While we are yet flawed by those among us who hold to racial bigotry and intolerance, they no longer define us as a nation or a people!” 

If you’re burning to honor King’s commitment to non-violence, tune in to live streaming worship and a social justice workshop Manhattan’s Middle Collegiate Church on Sunday. That’s when Mike Martin of Raw Tools will take a riff from Isaiah and forge a gun into a farm tool – on the pulpit.

Cuddle workshops (you heard me. Like this requires training…) have apparently spread from New York to London where another session of strangers learning to “have fun and experience innocent touch with others” is scheduled for Monday.

Oscar nominations are out. Did you indulge in the sex/drugs/Abscam crime romp of “American Hustle” (The “New York Times” op ed discussion du jour is “Why we like to watch rich people.” 

How about the techno glory and oddly godless spirituality of “Gravity”?

Are folks still feuding over faith in “Philomena” (a real person and who says she’s still very Catholic) and the Irish nuns who allegedly “sold” her out-of-wedlock son?

Michael Fassbender as “Edwin Epps,” Lupita Nyong’o as “Patsey,” and Chiwetel Ejiofor as “Solomon Northup” in "12 Years a Slave". Photo courtesy Fox/Searchlight Pictures

Michael Fassbender as “Edwin Epps,” Lupita Nyong’o as “Patsey,” and Chiwetel Ejiofor as “Solomon Northup” in “12 Years a Slave”. Photo courtesy Fox/Searchlight Pictures


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“12 Years a Slave” (Critics Choice Best Picture at the Thursday night ceremony) offers searing history but the Catholic bishops of New Jersey want people to know there’s still modern slavery underway – maybe even in the house next to yours. They’ve issued a letter in “The Catholic Herald” full of grim statistics on human trafficking. The letter begins:

“The nanny for your neighbor, the young woman who does your nails, the young man clearing your table at a restaurant, the people who pick the fruit you enjoy — each of these could be a victim of human trafficking — modern day slaves living within our midst.

Can someone be a Christian and ally with gay rights, too? Or is that a theological/philosophical contradiction in terms? RNS’ own Faitheist atheist Chris Stedman invited Dave Muscato, in the raging atheist corner, and Dean Roth, a humanist ex-evangelical who punches in for Christian supporters, to duke it out (verbally). It’s not just the “no” or “yes” but the “why” that makes this debate so interesting.

The Associated Press took a closer look at the 2,700 letters and messages on gay marriage that flooded the Utah governor’s office. His fight to block it in court has led to an injunction in place now while higher courts review a lower court decision to legalize same-sex wedlock. About a third support him. Some writers sent multiple messages, several messages were prompted by advocacy groups.

RNS columnist Jonathan Merritt has a fresh take on a Bible verse many Christians know by heart – and misuse often:  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 means something different than just a Tim Tebow eye black slogan. 

More for theology buffs: Popular blogger Rachel Held Evans got a flood of responses to an invitation to discuss “open theism” with an expert. Sharpen up your brain for this wrangle about free will, God’s omniscience and the nature of the future.

Now, a commercial break:

First, of course, support RNS by subscribing right here so you never miss a roundup.

Second, read everywhere – online and print. Rachel Maddow’s latest ode to why you should buy a paper, pay to cross the paywall is in “The Washington Post.” Best line:

“Whatever your partisan affiliation, or lack thereof, subscribe to your local paper today. It’s an act of civic virtue.”

Amen to that, but remember, Religion News Service is free.

Categories: Beliefs, Culture

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman is a senior national correspondent for Religion News Service, specializing in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality and ethics, and manager for social media.

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