Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
Welcome to the Morning Buzz, PRRI’s morning dose of religion-related news with a shot of data – because what doesn’t liven up a morning round-up like some public opinion numbers?
Over at Huffington Post, be sure to check out Diana Butler Bass’s fascinating new insights into the philosophical dilemma President Obama faces in considering Syria. Will he embrace theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s call to take a decisive stand against evil actions, or rather follow Niebuhr’s brother, H. Richard, in prioritizing self-reflection to build a moral community? Right now, it seems the American public is siding with H. Richard Niebuhr, as only 30 percent of Americans favor U.S. military involvement in Syria while 61 percent oppose.
It looks like Pope Francis is with the majority on this one. The pontiff has now been dubbed the “peace pope” for his condemnation of violence around the world and his opposition to military action in Syria. Fifty-nine percent of American Catholics say good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace, while 37 percent percent say military action is best for ensuring peace.
In other news from the Vatican, Pope Francis has taken time to speak with a Syrian family during a recent visit to a refugee center in Rome, a move signaling the pontiff’s continued commitment to supporting those in need. He has prioritized the plight of refugees since the beginning of his papacy, and encouraged Christians around the world to focus their efforts on helping others in their communities.
A federal judge has ruled that an Abercrombie & Fitch store violated the civil rights of a Muslim employee by firing her for wearing a hijab, the head covering worn by some Muslim women. A PRRI survey found that just 14 percent of Americans report knowing a lot about the religious beliefs and practices of Muslims.
Ever wish you could sled down a mountain of icing, or go rafting on a river of beer? Prepare to be amazed by photographer Christopher Buffoli, who has brought these and other whimsical visions to life in a new book of daring dioramas created using food and tiny plastic people. On that note, the Buzz will be on vacation until Tuesday. Enjoy the rest of your week!