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Practicing Religion in America: Religious Customs in the News

September 21st, 2015

There has been a lot of news coverage stemming from the Supreme Court’s most recent decision on marriage, and the lawsuits that have been filed in its wake.  Maybe it’s because it has been rare in the past few decades for an issue to arise that affects individuals on such a raw, personal area such as their religious beliefs, or maybe it’s because other stories on religion don’t sell newspapers (or online subscriptions).  Whatever the reason, it is sometimes a good idea to step back from the headlines and take a look at the other religion-oriented stories happening across the country and answer the question: What do these divides look like? What is religion in America?religion in america

Keeping the Sabbath

Many religions across the country have a day or set of days that their believers keep as holy days.  On these days, there are customs and traditions that are upheld that stem back to ancient times when our modern religions were newly born.  One such tradition is the observance of the Sabbath (or Shabbat) by individuals of Orthodox Jewish faith.  Religious dogma and tradition require that members of this religion “keep the Sabbath holy” by refraining from certain activities that would be considered work, or the creation of things.  While thousands of individuals observe the Sabbath across the country every week, news reports often do not follow until there is a tragedy.  While it can be easier to blame the practice of religion for such a deadly appliance failure than delve into a faulty appliance, it is interesting to note how the media report such events.

Burying your faith, literally

Catholicism is full of religious tradition and practices that have been modified little over the centuries since its inception (other than to maybe straighten out a few misguided political figures bent on world domination).  One of the odder traditions in which many non-Catholics gladly join is the sacred-ish tradition of burying St. Joseph.  This odd, but long-held belief stems from the prayer and burial of St. Joseph medals by Spanish nuns in the 16th century, so the story goes.  According to one story, the nuns were seeking land to purchase for a convent and after burying their St. Joseph medals had so much success that they eventually opened 16 convents.  The practice lay dormant in the news for a long time, known only to Catholics and their loved ones who needed a bit of help selling their home.  However, the patron saint of home and family was once again in the limelight when the housing market began its decline leading up to the bubble burst of 2008.  It is possible that this tradition is more suited to the secular than the truly religious, but it does bring a diverse group of individuals to the proverbial Catholic table.  

Onward, all religious soldiers

Whether they are in regard to the Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim, or myriad other religions practiced across the country, Universal Life Church Case Law will continue to track news stories and lawsuits to add to its storehouse of religious knowledge.  By having a comprehensive database of information on the state of religion in the United States so that scholars, religious and non-religious alike, we can all benefit from watching and learning how our country is shaped by judicial opinions, legislation and the day-to-day practices of religious individuals.

Photo Credit: Rockfan via Compfight cc

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