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This Week in God, 8.25.18

The Nuns on the Bus are back, and this time, they're not just opposed to the Republican tax plan, they're also headed for Donald Trump's backyard in Florida.
Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of the Roman Catholic Social Justice Organization, speaks during the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 5, 2012. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of the Roman Catholic Social Justice Organization, speaks during the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 5, 2012.

First up from the God Machine this week is the return of an impressive example of progressive faith-based activism called Nuns on the Bus.

In 2012, Sister Simone Campbell led NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, which launched the Nuns on the Bus tour. The point was entirely straightforward: Campbell and her allies were opposed to Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget plan and the effects it would have had on the poor if implemented, so they hit the road to raise public awareness. Campbell took on a fairly high profile, and even ended up delivering well received -- though non-partisan -- remarks at the Democratic National Convention.

The Huffington Post reported this week that this election season, Nuns on the Bus are headed back on the road, and they're wrapping up their series of events in Donald Trump's backyard.

For the sixth time since 2012, a Catholic social justice group is sending a group of religious sisters across the country on a bus tour ― this time to protest against the GOP tax law ahead of the midterm elections. The 27-day, 54-event tour is set to hit 21 states, including a slew of competitive congressional districts. The tour will end with a "Fiesta for the Common Good" outside of the Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.The goal of the October tour is to highlight GOP House members' support for the $1.2 trillion tax cut law, which is unpopular in public opinion polling. Critics have assailed the law for increasing the budget deficit and income inequality. The law remains popular in some Republican-leaning states and with the GOP's donor class but hasn't proven to be the midterm winner many GOP operatives hoped.

The piece quoted Campbell explaining, "We're going on the road to hold members accountable for their votes. When Republicans in Congress passed their tax plan into law last fall, we knew it was rooted in the fallacy of trickle-down economics. Now, we've seen the results of structuring tax policy to favor the biggest corporations and the wealthiest individuals in our nation."

If Trump is smart, he'll resist the temptation to lash out at these nuns via Twitter. Time will tell.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* On Monday, Pope Francis released a letter "apologizing for the church's inaction in the face of its global and decades-long sex abuse scandal, calling for greater accountability and promising that 'no effort' will be spared to change the church culture that has allowed both an epidemic of abuse and the broad conspiracy to conceal it."

* World, a fairly conservative Christian magazine, published a fascinating piece on how Jerry Falwell's Liberty University treats student journalists at the school's newspaper.

* This may get a little confusing: "The word 'Mormon' is out, says the president of the Utah-based church. But the proper term for what to call the faith and its followers is a mouthful. In an announcement on Thursday, President Russell M. Nelson insisted that Mormons and non-Mormons alike stick to the term 'the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.'"

* The Atlantic had an interesting piece this week on Vice President Mike Pence's "Space Force" speech and the degree to which it drew "on a long tradition of evangelical thinking about cosmic exploration."

* And it looks like the Netherlands' Council of State decided earlier this month that members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster -- also known as Pastafarians -- are not adherents of an officially recognized religion, and as such, they can't ask to wear pasta strainers on their heads when taking government ID photos. Maybe someday.