Things That Matter

Here’s What You Need To Know About The Organization Spreading The Bible Via Hotel Rooms Around The World

There are some things that are just so normal, we never question how it came to be normalized. One day, historians will ponder this in regards to immigrant detention camps in America, but I digress. Once upon a time, the dusty drawer in your hotel room’s nightstand laid bare. That trusty Holy Bible was nowhere to be found, and likely, people weren’t looking for it.

So in a capitalist economy like the U.S.’s where supply and demand reign as the key influencers in the world around us, how did every hotel in America, and, subsequently, the world, come to guard a Bible? We highly doubt that reading the Bible on your vacation is anywhere nearly as commonplace as the actual Bibles. Here’s what we found out.

It all started in the fall of 1898 when two traveling salesmen met in a Wisconsin hotel room…

By Jonathunder – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

John H. Nicholson of Janesville, Wisconsin and Samuel E. Hill of Beloit, Wisconsin found themselves as strangers in a crowded Central Hotel in Boscobel, Wisconsin. The two ended up being forced to share a room. The two shared pleasantries and soon realized they were both devout Evangelical Christians. They joked about creating an association of traveling Christian businessmen.

The following May, they met again at Beaver Dam, Wisconsin to firm up their idea: create a men’s group for traveling Christian salesmen.

“A Lasting Vision.” Digital Image. Gideons. 10 September 2019.

That July, Nicholson and Hill brought a third member, William J. Knights, to a YMCA in Janesville. There, they hoped to recruit more members, but nobody else would join them. Their first meeting was just the three of them, during which they divvied up roles. Hill would be the President, Knights the Vice President, and Nicholson the Treasurer and Secretary. 

They prayed together on a name and Knights heard God’s answer: “We shall be called Gideons.”

Untitled. Digital Image. Gideons. 10 September 2019.

The Book of Judges shares the story of a man named Gideon who was recruited by God to lead his small army of 300 men against an enormous army. Their faith led them to gain victory over the much larger army. Their membership grew over the years, mainly consisting of traveling Christian businessmen. 

In 1908, they started leaving the first free Bibles in hotel rooms of the Superior Hotel in Superior, Montana. Today, the organization has grown to 200 countries, territories, and possessions and is known as Gideons International. Its website maintains that the foundation is based on a perceived need that “people today need someone to come alongside them in finding their way to true salvation that is available only through the grace of God.”

Still, only men are allowed to hand out Bibles. Women can only serve as auxiliaries to the men, as their wives.

“A Unique Focus” Digital Image. Gideons. 10 September 2019.

The organization boasts more than 269,500 Gideons and distribution of over 2 billion Bibles around the world. Gideons International describes themselves as “an Association of Christian business and professional men and their wives dedicated to telling people about Jesus through associating together for service, sharing personal testimony, and by providing Bibles and New Testaments.” The organization acknowledges that they’re best known for leaving Bibles in hotels, but want you to know that they also “place and distribute Scriptures in strategic locations so they are available to those who want them, as well as to those who may not know they need them.” 

To elaborate, they also distribute Bibles to “hotels, motels, hospitals, convalescent homes, medical offices, domestic violence shelters, prisons, and jails.” Also, members of The Gideons will personally hand out a free Bible to “police, fire, and medical personnel; prisoners; military personnel; students in the fifth grade and above.”

This is where it gets even more cringy.

“A Worldwide Impact.” Digital Image. Gideons. 10 September 2019.

Their website is littered with images of Black children in presumably African nations holding up free Bibles. The Gideons were founded by a group of white men and has evolved into a group of men “and their wives” proselytizing to young children of color. The presumption that their culture’s spirituality trumps another’s is spiritual colonization of the 21st century. In fact, the ACLU has gotten involved in a case against Gideons International for going into public schools and proselytizing to children in the 5th grade and above. 

But, hey, we’re glad our abuelas are comforted by the free spiritual literature found in their hotel rooms.

Credit: Public Domain

Next time they thank God for the Bible in their hotel room drawer, you can remind her that the man who placed the Bible there, wouldn’t allow her to hand the same treasured book to someone else.

READ: 10 Folk Religions You Didn’t Know Existed In Latin America And The Caribbean

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These Nuns Have Become TikTok Sensations Because of Their Hilarious Videos

comedy

These Nuns Have Become TikTok Sensations Because of Their Hilarious Videos

Screenshot via daughtersofstpaul/TikTok

When you normally think of a Catholic nun, images probably come to mind of a stern and serious older woman who is quick to scold. But this group of nuns on TikTok go against every one of those stereotypes.

The Daughters of Saint Paul has recently become a TikTok sensation because of their hilarious and playful viral videos.

The Boston-based convent has racked up almost 56k followers from just a handful of videos that they’ve posted to the popular social media platform. The sisters have only posted three videos, but they’ve already gotten over 965.k likes and 6 million views.

The sisters have posted videos of themselves dressed up as ghosts while wandering around the convent grounds, what they’ve dubbed the “Holy Ghost photo shoot”.

@daughtersofstpaul

When temptation strikes. ⚡️ #IsThisAvailable #Catholic #MediaNuns @srbethanyfsp @pursuedbytruth

♬ original sound – Lubalin

There is another surprisingly funny video of themselves recreating the internal struggle of resisting Satan. The video is captioned “Thinking about giving into temptation” and set to the TikTok favorite song “Is This Available”. More than anything, its the committed performances of the two nuns that elevate the video to hilarious levels.

And of course, the Daughters of Saint Paul also posted the “This or That challenge” set to the ’80s Run DMC classic “It’s Tricky”. In this one, a group of the nuns split off into different groups based on what they prefer. The categories are super specific: “Morning prayer” is pitted against “Evening prayer” and “rosary” is pitted against “divine mercy chaplet.”

The sisters seem to have struck a chord with viewers because the videos are wholesome, lighthearted, but most of all, unexpected.

@daughtersofstpaul

When temptation strikes. ⚡️ #IsThisAvailable #Catholic #MediaNuns @srbethanyfsp @pursuedbytruth

♬ original sound – Lubalin

The joy and playfulness of the Daughters of Saint Paul have made them bonafide celebrities of the TikTok world. Their comment section abounds with praise like “This is EVERYTHING–y’all are the best,” and “This is so wholesome I love it here.”

Commenters also refer to their account as “NunTok”. There are also people asking for the nuns to pray for specific issues in their lives–like conceiving a baby or passing a test. It truly is one of the oddest corners of the internet.

The account appears to be run by Sister Bethany, a young media-savvy nun who has her own popular TikTok page.

@srbethanyfsp

I can’t stop laughing at this! (Vid was taken pre-covid) #fyp #Catholic #RareAesthetic

♬ Teach Me How To Dougie – Classics Reborn

In one informative TikTok, Sister Bethany explains why this particular convent of nuns is so present on social media, saying that they are “media nuns” and they use their talents to create content for their faith. But they also have guidelines about what they post.

“We the sisters are always asking ourselves, ‘Is this a good use of time?’ ‘Am I putting out things that are good, true, and beautiful?’,” said Sister Bethany. “And those are things we can all ask ourselves. And those are the ways we moderate our social media use.” No matter your beliefs, that’s definitely some great advice!

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Pope Francis Says That Women Are Now Allowed to Read Scripture During Mass and People Have Conflicting Emotions

Fierce

Pope Francis Says That Women Are Now Allowed to Read Scripture During Mass and People Have Conflicting Emotions

Photo via Getty Images

On Monday, Pope Francis announced that he has amended the Code of Canon Law, the official Catholic doctrine to formally allow women to give readings from the bible during mass.

Pope Francis said he made the change in order to recognize the “precious contribution” Catholic women make to the Catholic community.

While some have praised Pope Francis’s decision as a step in the right direction, some have taken issue with the papal decree that also seems to go out of its way to make a distinction between “ordained” ministries (like the priesthood and the diaconate) and other types of priesthoods that are open to both men and women.

It seems that Catholic equality activists are divided into two camps: those who believe that the decree will “open a door” towards women being ordained priests, and those who think the ordinance explicitly shuts down the possibility.

“This is the first codification of allowing women inside the sanctuary,” said historian Phyllis Zagano to AP News. “That’s a very big deal.” Zagano believes that the decree is a step towards female ordination because “you can’t be ordained as deacons unless you’re installed as lectors or acolytes [first].”

Critics are also saying that the ordinance is simply an empty gesture to appease Catholic women who want more leadership roles within the church.

“There is nothing new in the decree — it effectively recognizes the roles that many women have been doing for decades, only now they will be controlled by a bishop,” Lucetta Scaraffia, former editor of the Vatican’s women magazine “Donne”, said to “The New York Times”.

“It seems as though the pope is conceding something to women, but it is something that they’ve had for decades, while denying what they have requested, the diaconate,” she continued.

Indeed, the act of allowing women to read from the bible during mass is already widely practice in Catholic Churches across the world.

When Pope Francis amended the Canon Law to “officially” allow it, he was simply adding greater legitimacy to a practice that was already in place in many ministries across the developed world.

The Argentinian pope explained his decision in a letter, saying that the newly-formally ordained practice would “allow women to have a real and effective impact on the organization, the most important decisions and the direction of communities, while continuing to do so in a way that reflects their womanhood.”

But what “womanhood” is remains up to interpretation. And it definitely isn’t the same as what was when the Roman Catholic Church was first established in 313 A.D.

It is also worth noting that some religious historians believe that women held leadership roles like deacon (ordained minister) in the early history of the Catholic Church.

In fact, since he’s been in office, Pope Francis has created two separate commissions to further investigate the role of women during the early Catholic Church. If it is found that women were, indeed, sometimes ordained as deacons, that fact could give a precedence to women becoming ordained ministers in the current era.

But until then, Pope Francis has made it clear that he has no plans to change canon law to include women in the priesthood or diaconate.

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