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tv   Religion Ethics Newsweekly  PBS  January 25, 2015 4:30pm-5:01pm EST

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♪ coming up kim lawton looks at a top religious freedom priority, the reopening of turkey's halki seminary. it was shut down by the turkish government in 1971. also the music and spirituality of singer/songwriter bruce kober. major funding for "religion & ethics weekly" is provided by the lily endowment an indianapolis-based private family foundation dedicated to its founders in religion community development and education. additional funding also provided
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by mutual of america, designing customized, individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. >> welcome i'm bob abernethy. president obama's state of the union focused on proposals to help working class families and what the president called middle class economics. he also highlighted a host of social issues and cited america's respect for human dignity. >> that's why we defend free speech, advocate for political prisoners and condemn the persecution of women, rel%rçk[s minorities, or people lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. we do this not only because they're the right thing to do but ultimately they will make us safer. >> tens of thousands of americans came to washington this week for the annual march for life. the weather was unusually mild,
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but this year's event of clouded by a new political controversy. abortion opponents were upset after republican house leaders delayed a vote on a bill that would restrict abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. several female gop members have raised concerns that the bill did not have enough exceptions for victims of rape and incest. the u.s. supreme court unanimously sided with a muslim prison inmate in arkansas who had sued for the religious right to wear a short beard. the court said that arkansas prison officials failed to show that the inmate's beard was a threat to security. the court's decision was immediately praised by muslim groups as well as religious freedom advocates including the beckett fund. pope francis concluded his trip to asia this week. he received a warm welcome in the philippines where he met
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with natural disaster survivors praising their faith and resilience. on his trip back to rome he generated some controversy when he remarked that catholic parents did not need to reproduce "like rabbits." although he reaffirmed the church's ban on artificial birth control. pope francis also confirmed that his trip to the u.s. next september will include stops in new york and washington, d.c., as well as philadelphia. anti-islam protests continued throughout europe this week sparking fears about rising islamophobia in the aftermath of the paris attacks. in france more than 100 anti-muslim incidents have been reported since the shootings. meanwhile, muslims in many parts of the world held demonstrations denouncing what they see as offensive deifications of the prophet muhammad. in predominantly muslim niger
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protests against the french magazine "charlie hebdo" turned violent when christians were attacked and more than 70 churches reportedly burned to the ground. we want to talk more about some of the top stories of the week with kevin extrum, editor-in-chief of "religious news conference" and kim lawton our managing editor. kim, state of the union, what do you hear from religious folks about what they like and didn't like? >> well, there wasn't a lot of explicitly religious language in this year's speech. the president did say the u.s. is concerned and shouldn't have stereotypes against muslims as all of them being violent. apart that, he really talked about issues, issues people of faith care about. i heard from social justice religious people who were pleased by some of the economic policies. some religious conservatives not so much. on the social issues one issue that really stood out for me was
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the gay marriage question. and the president really characterized gay marriage as once an issue that divided us but now it's a matter of freedom and civil rights. now for the people of faith who have been lobbying for that to happen, who see it as a matter of justice they were pleased about it. a lot of religious conservatives, especially evangelicals i heard from, didn't like language at all. this is an issue that's going to be in the coming weeks even more tense as the supreme court takes it up. >> what did you hear? >> along the gay marriage front, the president characterized it as almost a done deal. he said 70% of our country lives in a state that has gay marriage. he was almost saying the battle is over and a lot were saying, no no, not so much. what i thought was really interesting is how he tried to recast the values debate. we've heard a lot in recent election business values. we had the values voters ten years ago. what he was talking about was not the typical hot button
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social issue values, abortion and garnly marriage, but underlying american values. hard work equal opportunity, things like that. trying to reframe how we look at values in this country. really interesting i thought at the end -- this was deliberate -- instead of saying "god bless america," the president said "god bless this country that we love." which i thought was subtle and significant but an interesting change. >> what was the difference? >> a lot of times "god bless america" is a throw-away phrase. people say it's uber patriotic, it doesn't mean anything because it's everywhere all the time. this way of -- not god bless america as a country as opposed to other countries, it's just god bless this land. it was much more inclusive i thought. >> i heard from religious groups that were -- felt that perhaps the president should have spent more time talking about the challenge of isis and al qaeda which he never mentioned. and a lot of religious communities saying, you know
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look, we've seen persecution of christians, other religious minorities, and the president didn't spend that much time on it. i heard some dissatisfaction with that, as well. >> what about the abortion thing that came up? >> well, interesting politics as ever. a lot of religious conservatives, catholics and evangelicals, were in town for the march for life, recognizing the roe vs. wade anniversary. many said hey, we got out to the polls in november. we helped elect a gop majority in congress. look, right off the block in january, one issue we cared about, the boorgd issueabortion issue -- which never seems to go away -- they were looking for legislation that got pulled. it shows the republican party tops reach out to faithful voros, but they want to broaden their network with women and younger people who haven't been voting as much republican.
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they're concerned that being seen as focused on these issues will calm that, but they have to balance the constituency. >> there was women in the house. >> yes. republican women raising concerns about it. >> kevin marcus bor dw died this week. 71 years old i think. controversial in his career with the jesus seminar. you reported on him a lot. >> yes, the thing about marcus bor gg is he was one of a number of respected scholars who questioned everything we've taken for granted about jesus and christianity over the years. said of being bogged down in -- instead of being bogged down in the doctrine of it they looked at jesus as being human. that upset a lot of people but what he was trying to do was say let's cut away the debates around the historics. you know, who said what, where, how it happened and let's talk about the essential message of
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christianity. yes, he was one scholar, but he spoke for a lot of christians who have questions about that. >> editor-in-chief of "religious news service," and kim lawton managing editor of this program. thanks to you both. ♪ in other news, during a trip to idaho this week, president obama had a private meeting with the family of the iranian american pastor who's been imprisoned in iran since 2012. the president told abidini's wife and two children that the case is a top priority for his administration. one of the longest standing priorities on the u.s. international religious freedom agenda has been the reopening of the prominent eastern orthodox halki seminary in turkey. it was shut down by the turkish government more than 40 years
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ago. on her receiptnt tripoli turkey kim lawton looked at the efforts to reopen it. >> the theological school of halki was once the world's leading orthodox seminary. it was closed by the tushrkish government in 1971. years later, the u.s. government and faith-based activists are still waging a campaign to see it reopened. >> halki is important substantively four to the orthodox -- of course, to the orthodox community. it is also important symbolically to the world and to those concerned with religious freedom. >> katrina lantos-sweat is chair of the commission on international religious freedom. >> this is perhaps the most obvious symbol of sort of false promises broken faith on the part of the turkish government when it comes to issues of religious freedom. we are very much in the posture of encouraging turkey to step up and do the right thing.
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it would strengthen not undermine turkish society. >> halki is an hour ferry friedride from istanbul. the school was established on the site of a byzantine era monastery. it became an institution of higher education with a library that boasted more than 110,000 volumes. ecumenical patriarch bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world's more than 300 million eastern orthodox christians was a halki graduate, as were many of the top orthodox leaders in the u.s. orthodox officials say halki's closure has had a profound impact on their church. >> we were deprived of our right, of our ability to renew our clergy. it was a very big loss for us.
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and this lasts already 43 years. it's a long time. >> metropolitan elpidophoros of born in turkey. as a young man called to study theology, he said he had no choice but to do so elsewhere. he studied in greece. >> when i finished my doctorate studies and was elevated to professor again i had to go to another country to be a professor. in my own country, my own school, my own monastery is closed. and i cannot do that. and i'm a citizen of this country. >> halki was shuttered during a time of strong pro-turkish nationalism. because of long-standing tensions between turkey and its neighbor greece, all entities perceived as having ties to orthodox church or greece suffered severe restrictions. those sentiments linger in many quarters. turkish officials have long said the school will not reopen until greece improves the situation for turkish minorities living
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there. >> greece had to do some steps to give some rights to the turkish population in greece. and then we asked ourselves why we are hostages from our own country for some possible difficulties that some other citizens of another country. >> turkish government officials declined our request for an interview. "the independent journalists and writers "foundation says there's little political will to halki reopened. >> the issue has been politicized to some degree, it's been a subject of bargain between the turkish and greek governments, for example. you know, reciprocity. i personally believe the rights of my country should not be a
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subject of bargain in an international debate. should be granted. >> the greek orthodox community inside turkey has diminished dramatically in recent years. official statistics suggest there may be fewer than 5,000. they are allowed to worship but metropolitan elpidophoros says true religious treatment is more than this. >> the problem is to allow me to educate myself, to educate my children, to educate my family in a christian way. to teach them our religion, to be able to educate the candidates for priesthood. and if this is not secure by my country then my country violates my rights. >> halki's ongoing closure is all the more poignant for turkish christians because of the history surrounding them.
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for centuries istanbul, formerly constantinople, was the site of ancient christianity. those glory days are long gone. the magnificent important cathedral is a museum. there are rumors it may be turned into a mosque as it was after the ottomans conquer the byzantine empire. >> there are moments that when i visit them arise in me some deeper feelings of pain and also of prayer to god that may heal the wounds of the past. >> in the face of strong international criticism, turkey's former prime minister now president, has indicated including in meetings with president obama that halki could open again. but he's not followed through,
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and the school remains closed. >> he's corrected many mistakes of the past. but still there are so many problems. so if such a powerful president feels unable to open this, then who can do that? >> you wonder to what degree pressures from islamist forces within turkey are prevailing upon the government not to follow through on commitments that they have made openly if not publicly. so i think that's a concern because if that is the case that they are responding to those sores of pressures, that's not a good -- sorts of pressures, that's not a good omen. >> after decades of waiting three years ago, bartholomew appointed elpidophoros with restaring the monastery and making it a living community once again. >> we realized that we waited for a long time.
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and now it's time for action. not to wait anymore. we lost 43 years waiting. >> nine monks now live on the grounds overseeing a small farm and a garden where they're trying to cultivate all 88 plants mentioned in the old testament. restoration of the buildings is underway. the library has been cataloged and they have begun the mammoth job of digitizing all 110,000 books. >> i hope that someday this school will reopen. and we have to prepare ourselves for this day. >> despite no signs of that happening any time soon, metropolitan says they're still moving forward in hope, a key tenet of their christian faith. i'm kim lawton at halki seminary in turkey. ♪ finally, we have a story about the canadian
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singer/songwriter bruce cockburn. he spoke about his career with many awards and albums but also about his spiritual search and his sense of the presence of god, sometimes while he's performing. ♪ used to have a town that the factory moved away ♪ >> he is not just a gifted guitarist and lyricist, canadian-born bruce cockburn has also been described as a combination bill bob dylan and ghani a modern-day prophet. -- gandhi, a modern-day prophet. ♪ >> lauded for his genius with the guitar and his poetic songwriting, cockburn plays a mixture of fmestyles including jazz and rock. when it comes to music and his spiritual state 69-year-old
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cockburn has never stopped reaching for more. >> i'm a seeker of a relationship with god. and -- let's say of a smoother and more conscious relationship with god. i think i have a relationship with god, but i'd like to be more in tune with it. so in that sense. >> at 17 he had a strong interest in spirituality and studied many religions, even flirted with mysticism which culminated -- miraculously he said -- with an efifth me to when he. the -- epiphany when he felt the presence of jesus on his wedding day with his first wife. >> the sense of his presence was strong. it was him. there's no question about that. it registered to me as a male presence that was loving and positive and -- and there was the sensation of light upon so that was the basis of my becoming a christian. >> after that experience,
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cockburn's songs contained more religious images. he was labeled a christian songwriter in the condition of the prophet. ♪ ♪ heaven and earth are full of your life ♪ >> the lyrics in some of your songs intrigue me. this is from "broken wheel." "so how am i supposed to feel way out on the rim of the broken wheel?" that's you way out on the rim of the broken wheel. >> yeah, the broken wheel is the galaxy we call the milky way. the song i suppose is about a fallen world and my relationship to that fallen world. the song is about my own feelings of -- of responsibility for the situation as it exists, and saying what am i supposed to do with this? >> from written songwriter, he became a spiritual seeker
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exploring various religions and getting involved in many causes as he traveled the world. >> when i was living in central america and heard him giving voice to what we were experiencing i thought, wow, i've found a i sortsort of spiritual poet that put war and conflict in human terms. >> some of what he tried to capture in his music that need to reach out and find something greater, can be heard in his song "all the diamonds." ♪ it's okay the world survives to another day ♪ ♪ and i'm singing about eternity and ecstasy got a hold on me ♪ [ cheers ] >> sometimes says cockburn reaching out can produce amazing results. >> occasionally there is a feeling when i'm playing that something -- that that connection with god is -- is
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alive and functioning. >> you feel like a conduit at that point? >> that's a good word for it. when i feel like a conduit, i get that -- the shiver that is like yeah there's -- hi god. there's god right here now. >> his spiritual quest the upsl and the downs has now been chronicled in his first book with a title lifted from cockburn's song "rumors of glory." why the word rumors? what was -- >> because these are health insurance of thing. you're not really -- these are hints of things. you're not really seeing the glory. you're seeing thing is of it, the vestige of it bits of it leaking through. >> that's what makes you keep seeking? keep being open? >> i think it sure helps. yeah. >> in a career which has spanned five decades with 31 albums and numerous awards in canada, he's even on a postage stamp. ♪ you're like me you'd like to think we learn
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from our mistakes ♪ ♪ enough to know we can play god with others' lives at stake ♪ >> now, says bruce cockburn, in the pulling of notes out of medicalal my job is to -- metal, my job is to try and trap the spirit of things. >> i don't spend much time thinking about trying to get a message across. i feel a compulsion to write about what i experience and what i think i see and feel. and i have a compulsion some kind to share that with people. i guess it's the conceit of every artist that, you know, you think that what you have to say is worth putting out there that people are going to be interested. >> and a compulsion, too, he makes clear, to being receptive to a mystery he does not fully understand. >> i don't see how you can have a relationship with god that doesn't involve a state of receptiveity and receptivity to
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lots of stuff because god shows up in different ways. there's all kinds of different ways that relationship can be made manifest. it requires the state of receptivity to know that's what's happening. >> he has a different perspective now he says, than in this earlier christian songwriter phase. but what is not different for bruce cockburn is his status as a seeker. spiritually you're not now where you expect to be? >> i don't predict about -- i don't make any predictions about that. i just -- i have hopes. meaning my awareness comes and goes and my -- and the energy that i might get from it comes and goes. and the lines -- like there's a lot of static on the line. which i'd like to get rid of it. >> is that your fault? >> i think so, yeah. i don't think it's god's fault. >> you're still listening and -- >> i sure am, yeah. i think it's what we're here to do.
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>> for bruce cockburn the musical and spiritual journey never ends. ♪ >> for "religion & ethics weekly," thisreporting from new york. that's our program for now. i'm bob abernethy. you can follow us on twitter and facebook and watch us any time on the pbs app for iphones and ipads. there's much more on our website including a feature on turkey's most important religious sites. you can also listen to or watch every program. join us at pbs.org. as we leave you bruce cockburn singing "lord of the star people."
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♪ oh lord the fires are burning ♪ major funding for "religion & ethics weekly" is provided by the lily endowment, an 19-based private family foundation dedicated to its founder's interest in religion, community development, and education. additional funding also provided by mutual of america -- designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why w w
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>> rose: welcome to the program. i'm charlie rose. the program is "charlie rose the week." just ahead, jack ma of alibaba at the world economic forum in davos, bill and melinda gates on the head and heart in philanthropy, and actress jessica chastain's most prolific year. >> this is your kid playing with a loaded gun. >> i know what it is. let me deal with it. >> oh, you better. you're not going the like what will happen once i get involved. >> rose: we have those stories and more on what happened and what might happen. funding for charlie rose was provided by the following:

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