Faith Digest: Jewish identity changing

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American Jews’ identity more cultural than religious. In the most comprehensive study of American Jews in 12 years, six out of 10 said being Jewish is mostly about ancestry or culture, not the religious practice of Judaism. “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” released by the Pew Research Center, shows strong secularist trends most clearly seen in one finding: 62 percent of U.S. Jews said Jewishness is largely about culture or ancestry; just 15 percent said it’s about religious belief. In a related finding, more than one in five self-identified Jews—22 percent—told Pew researchers they had no religion, a proportion that mirrors the roughly one in five Americans who claim no religious affiliation. A strong majority of Jews—69 percent—call themselves very or somewhat emotionally attached to Israel—a proportion that has held fairly steady at least a decade. Pew interviewed 3,475 Jews in America to produce its 213-page report, which pins the number of adult American Jews who say Judaism is their religion at 4.2 million. That number rises to 5.3 million if cultural Jews are included. The survey, which cost more than $2 million and was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Neubauer Family Foundation, was conducted between Feb. 20 and June 13, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Billy Graham’s grandson says evangelicals worse than Catholics on sex abuse. The Christian mission field is a “magnet” for sexual abusers, Boz Tchividjian, a Liberty University law professor who investigates abuse, told the Religion Newswriters Association conference. boz tchividjian130Boz TchividjianMission agencies, “where abuse is most prevalent,” often don’t report abuse because they fear being barred from working in foreign countries, said Tchividjian, a grandson of evangelist Billy Graham. Abusers will get sent home and might join another agency, and of known data from abuse cases, 25 percent are repeat cases, he said. While comparing evangelicals to Catholics on abuse response, ”I think we are worse,” he said, insisting too many evangelicals had “sacrificed the souls” of young victims. “Protestants can be very arrogant when pointing to Catholics,” said Tchividjian, executive director of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment—GRACE, which has investigated sex abuse allegations. Earlier this summer, GRACE spearheaded an online petition decrying the “silence” and “inattention” of evangelical leaders to sexual abuse in their churches.

Former popes due to be canonized in April. Popes John Paul II and John XXIII formally will be declared saints April 27. Pope Francis made the announcement during a meeting with cardinals gathered in Rome. John Paul, who was pope from 1978 to 2005, and John, who reigned from 1958 to 1963, are considered two of the most influential religious leaders in the world in the last century, and they represent two poles in Roman Catholicism—John XXIII, who convened the Second Vatican Council, is a hero to liberals, while John Paul II is hailed widely by conservatives. Francis said in July he planned to canonize them together, the first time two former popes will be declared saints at the same time.

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