Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Religious News Roundup for August 25

Pastor is a sick, sick, sick boy. Literally: his allergies are acting up today. Figuratively: despite those allergies--and a seminar spread out over three days--he can't resist writing another Roundup when by all rights, he ought to be sleeping. Figuratively again: well, you know. He's just a sick pup, and all the mood stabilizers in the world ain't going to help.

Today's categories:

Don't miss the "Thought for the Day" under this and that.

Religion & Politics
Today's biggest story is probably the release of a new survey on religion and politics, conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. In the interests of a RNR of less heft than Thomas Pynchon's longer novels, See below for more thoughts, and more analysis coming.

Thanks to fellow Kossite Ralph for finding this piece from Indian Country Today. The article itself doesn't break much new ground, but it comes from a historically under-reported voice. Worth checking out.

Two articles on Deal Hudson out there (at least): The Revealer's Jeff Sharlet has a funny and insightful consideration of why this story hasn't taken off. Killer grafs:

"So if being honest about your life means you lose some power, access and credibility among a certain audience -- oh well, I say. It's not all about you, after all."

But to the mainstream press, it is, in a sense. It's all about the public figure, his personality, his character. That's the story that sells. Think of America's newsrooms as asylums for thousands of would-be novelists, and you'll start to understand the media's fixation on archetype-as-personality. (I.e., is John Kerry a "war hero"? Or a waffler? Choose.) Hudson doesn't fit in that box. His political power is too subtle, his personality is too ambiguous, his religion is too intellectual. He's no Jerry Falwell (and, to be fair, the chaste Falwell is no Deal Hudson). In short, he doesn't conform to any of the pre-existing characters in the media stable, so he ends up getting written out of the secular record of a political story in which he's a major player.

It's also worth reading for the perspective. Not often that The Incredible Hulk comments on religion in the news, and very rarely that he does it so cogently.

Scroll down a bit on Beliefnet's Loose Cannon page, and you'll find an excellent takedown of the Catholic League's defense of Hudson. Shorter papists: she was a drunk. No, really. They were that direct about it. Just one more example of why flesh-eating bacteria aren't just for protestant evangelicals anymore.

Church & State
A couple of "prayer in the public square" stories that should surprise no one. One's in Boca Raton, and the other in Arkansas. My comments are equally brief: whaddya expect from somewhere named after the Mouth of the Rat River? And cheers for appellate courts who can decide such a case based on this reasoning:

the DeValls Bluff School District endorsed a religion -- not just because Warnock [the plaintiff] was offended.

"We believe that prayers at mandatory teacher meetings and in-service training conveys ... a decisive endorsement," the appeals court wrote.

RNR firmly believes that religious expression for all is most free when it is compelled for none.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on a phenomenon RNR wrote about on Monday: local munincipalities objecting to church construction (or in this case, expansion). This will be a recurring theme, mark our words.

Catholic News
Two "underground" news stories from the Romish church today. One, from the San Jose Mercury-News, details the way that the authority of women continues to grow--albeit often informally--in the priest-strapped United States.

The other, from the AP, describes a breakaway congregation of "radically inclusive" Catholics in the Pittsburgh area. If you're curious, their website is here. RNR's recollection is that there are something like 200 Catholic church groups in the United States, some on the more conservative end of the spectrum, some on the more liberal. You might want to talk about the Catholic churches in your next rant.

Muslim News
RNR is hardly qualified to comment on this story, so we'll just pass it on: a Muslim scholar, due to begin teaching at Notre Dame this fall, has had to leave the US after having his visa revoked by the Justice Department. We'll leave it up to better-informed readers to say whether or not he's a Muslim extremist, as some Jewish groups have charged.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is calling on his followers to march on the holy city of Najaf, in order to reclaim the Imam Ali shrine from the Mehdi Army and the American and Iraqi forces besieging it. In case you're wondering what all the fuss is about, take a gander at these photos, via SwamiUptown.

This 'n' That
Sad news: the only brewery in Northern Ireland is closing. To quote that great sage, Tom Waits: "there's nothing sadder than a town with no cheer..."

Thought for the Day
RNR doesn't usually like doing these. Half the time, they're cheesy as all get-out, and just as often, the insight's non-transferable. But we picked up some good stuff at our seminar this week. So good, in fact, that we're going to pass it on to you, in bits and pieces. Today's bit comes from Jalal al-din Rumi, the Sufi poet.

Lovers think they're looking for each other,
but there's only one search: wandering
this world is wandering that, both inside one
transparent sky. In here
there is no dogma and no heresy.

The miracle of Jesus is himself, not what he said or did
about the future. Forget the future.
I'd worship someone who could do that.

On the way you may want to look back, or not,
but if you can say There's nothing ahead,
there will be nothing there.

Stretch your arms and take hold the cloth of your clothes
with both hands. The cure for pain is the pain.
Good and bad are mixed. If you don't have both,
you don't belong with us.

When one of us gets lost, is not here, he must be inside us.
There's no place like that anywhere in the world.


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