Trayvon nativity * Snake jury * Obama’s faith: Monday’s religion news roundup

RNS photo by Shelley Mays/courtesy USA Today

Andrew Hamblin from “Snake Salvation.” RNS photo by Shelley Mays/courtesy USA Today

Conversation starter: A United Methodist church nativity scene is featuring a bloody Trayvon Martin in place of the infant Jesus in an attempt to stir a community conversation about gun violence.

In real life: Andrew Hamblin, who stars in the recent reality TV show “Snake Salvation,” will on Jan. 6 have to face a grand jury for illegal possession of dangerous wildlife. A central Pennsylvania man has pleaded guilty to beating a star of the TV series “Amish Mafia.”

On sexuality: RIP Duck Dynasty controversy? AE reinstated Phil Robertson after his temporary suspension over his statements in a GQ article. The Boy Scouts of America will begin accepting openly gay youths on New Year’s Day, a historic change that has prompting various complications.

Bail sought: Lawyers for Philadelphia archdiocese Msgr. William Lynn will go to court today to seek bail for the monsignor whose conviction for shielding an abusive priest was overturned last week. David Gibson writes that the case was a symbolic setback for victims’ advocates.

Israel issues: Members of a Jewish group are testing the boundaries prohibiting speakers who are unsupportive of Israel. An informal grass-roots movement of Arab Christians, prompted in part by the Arab Spring, wants to cooperate more closely with Israeli Jewish society.

Circumcision conversations: A Pittsburgh rabbi is being sued after allegedly injuring a boy during circumcision ritual. Unrelated to that specific incident, a small but growing number of Jews are questioning the ancient ritual of circumcision.

Features worth reading: One former megachurch in Indianapolis is borrowing some of the language of the Slow Food movement to resist the “McDonald’s-ization of the church.” Many know the Salvation Army’s red kettles and bell ringers at Christmastime, but fewer people know that it is a church. Peggy Fletcher Stack explains. And one man credits Buddhist meditation with saving his life. And 2013 has afforded Jewish children’s literature the big break it has needed for some, argues Menachem Wecker.

In politics law: President Obama’s faith appears more complicated, more private and perhaps more inclusive than that of previous presidents, not regularly going to church or Christmas services since his time in office. (Here’s a slideshow of Obama’s interaction with religion in 2013.) In Utah, one law professor suggests that the Utah Attorney General may have procedurally botched litigating the same-sex marriage case. 

Weekend tweets:

Tomorrow is your last day to get out those year-end gifts. Keep RNS in mind.

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