" Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker during a PTL broadcast (circa 1986)" by Peter K. Levy via Flickr (Public Domain)

What if I told you that you’d have a miracle at this time tomorrow if you shouted “Fear not!” three times, counted down from ten and then called and sent money to a television network?

These were the exact instructions of one of the ministers during this year’s Praise-A-Thon, one of the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s many fundraising efforts that elicits donations across the country annually; the television network is one of the leaders in televised ministry and has provided an outlet for recorded and live services. Stakes are usually much higher, however, for contemporary televangelists; though their heyday has undoubtedly passed, these ministers still make millions in their pursuit of televised salvation.

"Mujer musulmana en Pamukkale, Turquia" by Edgardo W. Olivera is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

On Tuesday, December 6th, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech calling for a ban on the full-face veil worn by some Muslim women. Earlier this year, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere also called for a ban on the full veil in public places. In defense of the ban, politicians appeal to society cohesion, and adherence to the values of Germany.

"Ark Encounter" by Jameywiki is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikipedia)

With 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV in 2015, and 2.1 million newly infected people last year, the search for a cure for human immunodeficiency virus and the syndrome that follows, AIDS, is dire. Traditionally, children who are born with HIV will die from AIDS before their second year if not treated. However, monkeys infected with the equivalent virus, SIV, will typically survive. To the scientific community’s surprise, scientists have found that a “monkey-like” gene found in some children may be a leap closer to a cure. This discussion of treatment for AIDS automatically assumes an evolutionist perspective on humans. Does finding the cure for HIV go against pivotal American values?

"Cell Culture in a tiny Petri dish" by kaibara87 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Wikipedia)

The idea of meat grown in a laboratory is not a new one. Winston Churchill even shared this vision as far back as 1931, saying “Fifty years hence, we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or the wing, by growing these parts separately in a suitable medium.” As Churchill predicted, in recent years this once far-fetched vision has turned into an imminent reality. Lab-grown meat is created through the process of collecting cells from a live or recently killed animal and replicating the cells in a scientific setting. The current technology is similar to “cutting off a salamander’s tail and letting it grow back.”

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"Mujeres Musulmanas en la playa" by I. Barrios & J. Ligero is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikimedia Common)

Multiple cities in the French Riviera banned Muslim women from wearing a “burkini” in public, a full body swimsuit resembling a wetsuit. France’s foremost court overturned these bans, arguing they “seriously, and clearly illegally, breached the fundamental freedoms to come and go, the freedom of beliefs and individual freedom.” Over 30 cities in France had prohibited women from wearing the religiously-motivated swimsuit at public beaches, even forcing women to leave the beach and only allowing them to come back if they are wearing something more “appropriate.”

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"Sightseer" by Stevebidmead is licensed under Public Domain (via Pixabay)

Italian fashion company Dolce & Gabbana recently released a new line of clothing containing hijabs and abayas. People around the world who follow the fashion industry were excited about the new line, which appears to be championing inclusiveness. Muslim women have been buying high-end fashion for years – most of which either stays in closets, or is only worn under abayas – and the brand’s new line appears to be in response to the general lack of fashionable options for Muslim women that can be worn out. Other brands, such as DKNY and Tommy Hilfiger, have also expanded their collections to include pieces that appeal to the female Muslim market. The Muslim market is lucrative, as many women from oil-rich countries shop for expensive, high-end clothing, primarily shoes and handbags. This line is supposed to give more options for expression beyond shoes and bags. Forbes said that Dolce & Gabbana’s move was their “smartest move in years” from a business perspective. Numerous lines have come to set up stores in Dubai, which even hosted its first fashion week this year. Since the sociopolitical culture is currently dangerous for women, Dolce & Gabbana’s new release was considered a move toward demonstrating the potential for harmony between Muslim and Western societies.

“Untitled” by Jojo Nicdao is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

Pope Francis will begin his first visit ever of the United States tomorrow, when he lands in Washington, D.C. after a four day visit to Cuba. His visit is highly anticipated and there has already been a threat on his person that has recently been disrupted by U.S. authorities. The Pope’s visit comes at a critical time as the presidential campaigning for the 2016 elections has raised awareness and debate over a variety of issues. What we can expect from Pope Francis is that he is not only going to make a stance on these issues but also raise awareness on other ones.

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“A Ride in the Pope Mobile” by Raffele Esposito is licensed under CC BY­NC­SA 2.0 (via Flickr)Learn More

Since the issue rose to prominence, the Catholic Church has deemed abortions immoral and worthy of instant excommunication. For those non-Catholics, excommunication is getting kicked out of the Catholic Church and barred from re-joining unless a bishop lifts the excommunication. Excommunication usually occurs after committing a grave sin, so in the case of abortion, the murder of an unborn.

Pope Francis, the current pontiff of the Catholic Church, announced on Tuesday that as part of his “year of mercy”, he is granting all local priests the ability to lift the excommunications placed on women who for one reason or another got an abortion.  In his letter he said, “absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.”

This immense decision holds a lot of ethical implications for old-school Catholics as well as a newer generation of Catholics. For many people of my grandparents’ generation, abortion is not something that should be 1) talked about or 2) done at all under any circumstances.  Yet for people in Generation Y, abortion is discussed less as an ethical issue and more of an issue of ownership over your own body.

Regardless of my personal beliefs about the topic of abortion, I applaud Pope Francis for making the Catholic Church less harsh and judgmental. The Catholic Church has not always been a champion of inclusion. With strong beliefs on many “hot topics” these days like gay rights, abortion and divorce, people are turned off from Catholicism. But is a church’s job to try and include everyone? Isn’t that why we have millions of different faiths today? Do people have a problem with the Catholic Church’s views because of its long history or because of its strong views?

My preferred version of the Catholic Church is one where kindness and acceptance are stronger than those of judgment and strict adherence to the rules.