First up from the God Machine this week is a breakthrough at one of the nation's most high profile, nationally recognized houses of worship.
The Washington National Cathedral, the nation's traditional host of prayer services for presidents and memorial services for national tragedies, announced on Wednesday that it would now also hold weddings for same-sex couples.The cathedral, a neo-Gothic landmark in northwest Washington, is the seat of the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and the Washington Diocese. [...][T]he cathedral's step carries weight because of its historic role as the nation's unofficial capitol of worship, where Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan were eulogized, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last Sunday sermon and where the nation mourned the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Later this month, the cathedral will host the second inaugural prayer service for President Obama.
The cathedral's dean, the Very Rev. Gary Hall, told the AP, "I read the Bible as seriously as fundamentalists do. And my reading of the Bible leads me to want to do this because I think it's being faithful to the kind of community that Jesus would have us be." He added, "As a kind of tall-steeple, public church in the nation's capital, by saying we're going to bless same-sex marriages, conduct same-sex marriages, we are really trying to take the next step for marriage equality in the nation and in the culture."
As best as I can tell, the National Cathedral's announcement has not yet sparked an organized backlash from opponents of marriage equality.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* When President Obama is inaugurated a week from Monday, he'll take the public oath of office on two Bibles: one that belonged to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and another that belonged to Abraham Lincoln.
* As part of his task force on gun violence, Vice President Biden met this week with a group of 12 national faith leaders. According to Rev. Michael McBride, one of the attendees, the vice president talked about the moral imperative to take action. "He was asking the faith community to use the power of our moral voices and persuasion" to help find common sense solutions, McBride said.
* Scott Lively's case is worth watching. If his name isn't familiar, "that's because Lively's unique contribution to this anti-gay agenda is his persecution consulting in other countries, most notably Uganda, where he brags he is known as the 'father' of the anti-gay movements."
* The number of members of Congress who don't identify with any particular religion is not only rising, it's reached new heights.
* Another legal setback for the Roman Catholic Church: "Church leaders who mishandled child sex abuse allegations will be named in a 30,000-page cache of internal Archdiocese of Los Angeles records set for public release in coming weeks, a judge ruled Monday" (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).
* And radical TV preacher Pat Robertson continues to share his unique brand of marital advice.