“Rajneeshees in Oregon Pt. 2: Ambitious sect members lead poison attacks.” By Les Zaitz. The Oregonian. April 17, 2011. The Oregonian’s series on the history of the Rajneeshees in Oregon continues with “Thwarted Rajneeshee leaders attack enemies, neighbors with poison.” Reporter Les Zaitz, who wrote about the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh when he arrived in Oregon with thousands of followers, tells of the increasing frustration felt by the religious sect’s leaders. They became more and more frustrated by local officials who would not allow unregulated growth at Rancho Rajneesh, their compound in rural Eastern Oregon. The Rajneeshees wanted to be left alone to build their global commune. That ambition was being thwarted by regulators, politicians and nearby residents. Commune leaders fought back in ways large and small, public and clandestine. They did so in the name of their spiritual master, the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Ultimately, their retaliation against Oregon officials turned from petty to dangerous.
“Rajneeshees in Oregon – Pt. 3: Importing homeless and poisonings in The Dalles to win an election.” The Oregonian. April 18, 2011.
“Rajneeshees in Oregon Pt. 4: Paranoia reigns as official concerns about sect grow.” The Oregonian. April 19, 2011.
“Monks Embrace Web to Reach Recruits.” By Tanzina Vega. New York Times. April 17, 2011. The Benedictine monks at the Portsmouth Abbey in Portsmouth, R.I., have a problem. They are aging — five are octogenarians and the youngest will be 50 on his next birthday — and their numbers have fallen to 12, from a peak of about 24 in 1969. So the monks, who for centuries have shied away from any outside distractions, have instead done what many troubled organizations are doing to find new members — they have taken to the Internet with an elaborate ad campaign featuring videos, a blog and even a Gregorian chant ringtone. “We’re down in numbers, we’re aging, we feel the pressure to do whatever we can,” said Abbot Caedmon Holmes, who has been in charge of the abbey since 2007. “If this is the way the younger generation are looking things up and are communicating, then this is the place to be.” That place is far from the solitary lives that some may think monks live. In fact, in this age of all things social media, the monks have embraced what may be the most popular of form of public self-expression: a Facebook page, where they have uploaded photos and video testimonials. A new Web site (portsmouthabbeymonastery.org) answers questions on how to become a monk — one F.A.Q.: “Do I have to give up my car?” (yes) — and print ads announce that “God Is Calling.” Some monks will even write blogs. “If 500 years ago, blogging existed, the monks would have found a way to make use of it,” Abbot Holmes said. “Our power is very limited. In the end it’s God who is calling people to himself and calling to people to live in union with him. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do our part.”
“A Village With the Numbers, Not the Image, of the Poorest Place.” By Sam Roberts. New York Times. April 20, 2011. The poorest place in the United States is not a dusty Texas border town, a hollow in Appalachia, a remote Indian reservation or a blighted urban neighborhood. It has no slums or homeless people. No one who lives there is shabbily dressed or has to go hungry. Crime is virtually nonexistent. And, yet, officially, at least, none of the nation’s 3,700 villages, towns or cities with more than 10,000 people has a higher proportion of its population living in poverty than Kiryas Joel, N.Y., a community of mostly garden apartments and town houses 50 miles northwest of New York City in suburban Orange County. About 70 percent of the village’s 21,000 residents live in households whose income falls below the federal poverty threshold, according to the Census Bureau. Median family income ($17,929) and per capita income ($4,494) rank lower than any other comparable place in the country. Nearly half of the village’s households reported less than $15,000 in annual income. About half of the residents receive food stamps, and one-third receive Medicaid benefits and rely on federal vouchers to help pay their housing costs. Kiryas Joel’s unlikely ranking results largely from religious and cultural factors. Ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jews predominate in the village; many of them moved there from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, beginning in the 1970s to accommodate a population that was growing geometrically. Women marry young, remain in the village to raise their families and, according to religious strictures, do not use birth control. As a result, the median age (under 12) is the lowest in the country and the household size (nearly six) is the highest. Mothers rarely work outside the home while their children are young. Most residents, raised as Yiddish speakers, do not speak much English. And most men devote themselves to Torah and Talmud studies rather than academic training — only 39 percent of the residents are high school graduates, and less than 5 percent have a bachelor’s degree. Several hundred adults study full time at religious institutions. The concentration of poverty in Kiryas Joel, (pronounced KIR-yas Jo-EL) is not a deliberate strategy by the leaders of the Satmar sect, said Joel Oberlander, 30, a title examiner who lives in Williamsburg. “It puts a great strain on their resources,” he said. “They would love to see the better earners of the community relocate as well to balance the situation, but why would they?” Still, the Census Bureau’s latest poverty estimates, based on the 2005-9 American Community Survey released last year, do not take into account the community’s tradition of philanthropy and no-interest loans. Moreover, some families may be eligible for public benefits because they earn low salaries from the religious congregations and other nonprofit groups that run businesses and religious schools. Nearly half of the village’s residents with jobs work for the public or parochial schools.
“The Evangelical Adoption Crusade.” By Kathryn Joyce. The Nation. April 21, 2011. In late March Craig Juntunen told a group of Christian adoption advocates assembled at a Chandler, Arizona, home about his plans to increase international adoptions fivefold. Just over a year before, the world had been riveted by the saga of Laura Silsby, the American missionary arrested while trying to transport Haitian children across the Dominican border. But the lessons of that scandal seemed far from Juntunen’s mind as he described his “crusade to create a culture of adoption” by simplifying adoption’s labyrinthine ethical complexities to their emotional core. Juntunen, a former pro football quarterback and the adoptive father of three Haitian children, has emerged as a somewhat rogue figure in the adoption world since he recently founded an unorthodox nonprofit, Both Ends Burning. He has commissioned a documentary about desperate orphans in teeming institutions, Wrongfully Detained, and proposed a “clearinghouse model” that will raise the number of children adopted into US families to more than 50,000 per year. Juntunen acknowledges that many adoption experts find his proposals naïve, particularly in a year that witnessed scandals in Haiti, Nepal and most recently Ethiopia, where widespread irregularities and trafficking allegations may slow the once-booming program to a crawl. He met a chilly reception recently at the Adoption Policy Conference at New York Law School when he spoke alongside State Department officials. But Juntunen insists that his ideas for increasing adoption constitute a social movement, akin to the civil rights movement, and that the force of a growing “adoption culture” will help them prevail. In this expectation, he may be right. In Arizona, Juntunen was speaking with Dan Cruver, head of Together for Adoption, a key coalition in a growing evangelical adoption movement. The event was the first of the organization’s new “house conferences”: small-scale meet-ups bolstering an active national movement that promotes Christians’ adopting as a way to address a worldwide “orphan crisis” they say encompasses hundreds of millions of children. It’s a message Cruver also emphasizes in his book Reclaiming Adoption—one in a growing list of titles about “orphan theology,” which teaches that adoption mirrors Christian salvation, plays an essential role in antiabortion politics and is a means of fulfilling the Great Commission, the biblical mandate that Christians spread the gospel.
“Five myths about church and state in America.” Opinion. Washington Post. April 22, 2011. [For story, go to Law & Public Policy].
“Fewer Jesuit priests this Easter, but more people learning Jesuit ideals.” By Michelle Boorstein. Washington Post. April 23, 2011. When John Langan came to Georgetown University in 1975 as a young Jesuit priest, he was one of 112 brothers from the Catholic order on campus. Jesuit Robert Drinan, a Massachusetts Democrat, was in Congress, and Jesuit John McLaughlin had recently been in the West Wing advising Republican President Richard Nixon. Today there are barely half as many Jesuits at Georgetown, the order’s flagship university. Gonzaga, a Jesuit high school in Northwest Washington, is down to 17, compared with 43 in 1970. There’s talk that St. Aloysius, a Jesuit parish in the District known for its social justice efforts, could close when the last remaining Jesuit leaves. And there are no full-time Jesuit staff members at the Washington Jesuit Academy, where the board chairman is Jewish. Jesuits are vanishing from the Washington area, where they established the first Catholic parish in the Colonies. When Langan’s fellow Jesuits gather Thursday for an annual post-Easter dinner at Georgetown, a topic of table chat will be transition. The regional Jesuit office is in the midst of merging with two other shrinking offices to create one that extends from Maine to Georgia. Looking at the Jesuits’ slip from public life is particularly poignant during Holy Week — when Catholics believe Jesus created the priesthood — and especially so in the Washington region, where Jesuits essentially laid the foundation for Catholicism in the English-speaking Colonies. As the first Catholic priests in the Colonies, Jesuits created the country’s first Catholic parish in 1641 in St. Mary’s County. American Jesuits call the D.C.-Baltimore branch of the order “the mother province.” Some of Washington’s most esteemed institutions are Jesuit: Georgetown University and Georgetown Preparatory School, Gonzaga College High School, St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church and the 10,000-member Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown.