Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Lutherans Just Like Catholics -- In the Bad Way

High-church types, yr. obdt. svt. included, suffer from occasional bouts of "me-too-ism." Lutherans and Anglicans ape bits and pieces of Roman Catholic practice; Romans sometimes crib from the Orthodox playbook, etc.

So I suppose an ELCA pastor convicted and sentenced for soliciting sex from a 14-year-old boy over the Internet was inevitable. Thank you, Michael Anthony Harris, formerly of St. Paul's, Pensacola. You've proved that we are capable of just as much betrayal of trust, sexual violence, and general clerical malfeasance as our tonsured brothers.

Word of advice: once you get out of prison, keep your distance from Father A. That guy has a quick temper and a long memory for creeps like you..

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Impeach Bush

Follow the link to see the Egg's New Year's wish. About as likely as dancing sugarplums, but what the hey.

Christus Belli

Christmas has come and gone (at least for those who aren't down with the whole "twelve days" business). And with it, we may hope, has gone the War on Christmas promoted by Bill O'Reilly and his ilk.

For my Hanukkah gelt, the funniest take on this bit of festal foolishness was Stephen Colbert's. He started with spiral-cut ham, and built to ... well, you'll see. Follow the link, scroll down if you have to, and then click the box for "Xmas."

NY Man Changes Name to "Jesus Christ"

Merry Christmas. Sigh.

My favorite part of the Daily News article is the, err, revelation that Jose Luis Espinal, of Washington Heights, is the second person this year to have his name legally changed to the Savior's.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Alleged Pope Incarnate is Excommunicated

That's the actual CNN headline. But what we love best is the subhead: "Bishop also issues warning to woman claiming to be Virgin Mary."

Seems a Puerto Rican firefighter believes that John Paul II has taken over his spirit, and that Benedict XVI is "the antichrist." (Okay, Martin Luther occasionally muttered something about the Pope being antichrist, but the context was different.)

Geeze, Louise. The Egg is old enough to remember when crazy people just claimed to be Napoleon and let it go at that.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Anglicans Restore the Taurobolium

Anglicans in South Africa aroused some consternation over their plan to ritually sacrifice an ox in celebration of opening a new diocese. The SPCA, needless to say, objected.

The Beliefnet comments on this one got sorta bogged down in the history of Jewish and Zoroastrian demonology, and for the less obscurely minded, on the question of whether the sacrifice was okay as long as they planned to eat the animal. Well, fine, everybody has a perspective. Our thinking here at the Egg is that this sounds like the Mithraic rites of intiation -- slaughter a bull, and take a bath in it's blood. Ick.

But here's the thing: Last I checked, Anglicans were Christians (despite Bishop Spong). And Christianity has historically taken a pretty dim view of animal sacrifice. And yes, I understand the nuance that Paul (in 1 Cor 8) is talking about animals sacrificed to pagan deities. And I try to be sympathetic to calls for enculturation. But still -- what possible purpose can an animal sacrifice serve for Christians, given that whole Hebrews 10 business about how we are made holy by the sacrifice of Christ, once and for all?

We Evangelicals have always been a little skeptical about the Roman Catholic interpretation of the Mass as an "unbloody sacrifice." But, whatever its limitations, that has to be safer theological ground than, well, an extremely bloody sacrifice. I mean, do you know how much blood an ox has?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Why We Like Bush Now

Don't get all huffy now. The Egg hasn't been wild about W., and isn't changing its position much. (We know the White House is heaving a sigh of disappointment).

But let's give the proverbial devil his due. On his recent swing through what the pre-PC crowd used to call the Orient, President Bush has been undiplomatically blunt in criticizing China's continued denial of human and civil rights to the Chinese, and especially of its religious oppression.

You know what? Good for him. Here's a story about
official government torture of eight "house church" members, as well as the kidnapping of a Beijing pastor. Here's one about a Tibetan monk who has been barred from coming home. And here's the latest on Falun Gong.

Mind you, it isn't just the Chinese.
Anastasia Yezhova has a theory that one reason Muslims settle in Europe -- apart from the grinding poverty of their homelands -- is that in Europe they are free to practice their religion. You heard me. It is easier to practice Islam in Europe than in all those "Islamic Republics" we keep reading about.

So, yes, I still think the President lied his way into a war, which he has since waged brutally but ineffectively. Yes, I think he has made absurdly bad political appointments, squandered the budget surplus, robbed from the poor to fatten the superrich, and -- yes, that old chestnut -- stolen one if not both elections. But there's no way around it: He's speaking truth to power on the question of religious freedom.

I may hate myself once I get sober, but ... You go, George.

Friday, November 18, 2005

In French, C'est "Polygamie."

Per the current official line out of the Elysee, the problem isn't unemployed, marginalized Muslim rioters. It's polygamy.

See, France doesn't believe in work -- so unemployment can't be a problem. It doesn't believe in minorities -- so marginalization can't be the problem. And it doesn't believe in religion, so -- well, you get the idea. In a nation that has worked hard to officially ignore the facts of life, the brutal evidence that those facts remain stubborn things requires some creative interpretation. But the people who brought us Jacques Derrida are up for the task.

Of course, as
Dhimmi Watch asks, "which major world religion promotes polygamy?" Hint: It's not Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Judaism, Taoism, Confucianism, or Shinto. (Watch out for the Jains, though. Rumor has it those pacifist vegetarians are up to something....)

Mind you, the French Left is outraged by all this talk, which it says will "reinforc[e] xenophobia and racism." And maybe they're right. Maybe polygamy is a basic human right -- or anyway, a civil right. And maybe
Fundamentalist Mormon Warren Jeffs isn't just the kind of sicko who "marries" a 16-year-old girl to an already-married adult man -- maybe he's a freedom fighter.


Strike up the "Marseillaise" and break out the kiddie porn, folks. It's gonna be a long night while the sleep of reason goes on breeding monsters.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Still, It Moves

Or so said Galileo, according to tradition, under his breath after an official recantation. And he was right; the earth does move around the sun.

So now Kansas (along with Ohio, Minnesota, New Mexico and maybe Pennsylvania)has decided to play Pope in the seemingly endless American road-show version of the same play, with Darwin as the understudy for Galileo. Kids in science class will now be taught the Intelligent Design party line, ratherthan ... oh, I dunno ... science.

Kansas calls it a victory for free speech. I call it a victory for the Counter-Reformation papacy -- that is, the desperate forces of reaction fighting their Pyrrhic battle against empiricism and modernity. But that's okay. Because still, it moves.

A Priest, a Rabbi, and the Prime Minister...

Britain is no haven for free speech (see under: libel laws). But in the LA Times, Michael McGough skewers Blair's recent proposal to effectively ban criticism of religions or their beliefs.

Best bit is a quote from gay columnist and erstwhile MP Matthew Parris, to the effect that the law might prevent him from criticizing the pope for excluding homosexuals from the priesthood. "To what kind of philosophical shambles can our Government have been reduced, when it promotes laws to criminalize me if I encourage hatred of such a Pope, yet looks away when such a Pope encourages hatred of me?"

The idea that jokes about "a priest, a rabbi and a minister" would be banned is Orwellian, but not utterly implausible. Especially if you throw in an imam, since -- reading between the lines -- the real bottom line here is the increasing danger (and ease) of pissing off unemployed, riot-and-assassination prone Muslims. Insult Roman Catholics, and you get a lecture from Bill Donohue at the Catholic League. Insult a Muslim in Europe these days, and you get the Theo van Gogh treatment. (Meanwhile, insult an Anglican, and he laughs along uncomfortably, to show you what a good sport he is. Poor buggers.)

McGough is less convincing when he addresses America's present confusion about public displays of religiosity. Oh, we're confused alright -- and badly. But our confusion isn't like the English kind. And to say any more about it would take a loooong post.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Happy Halloween

Anne Rice, Goth goddess, has traded in her vampire stories and bondage fairy tales for ... wait for it ... Jesus.

You already know the story, because it is so achingly familiar: she got sick, she got well, she turned her life over to God. All on the Road to Damascus. And now she's written a book about Jesus as a seven-year-old.

This could easily destroy her career. Imagine all those vampire fans screaming "it burns!" when they see a cross. On the other hand, it probably won't. First, although most religious novels are unbearable, you do find exceptions. Kirkus calls this one "riveting and reverent," two adjectives that are usually antonyms. They even compare her to seriously great modern writers like Nikos Kazantzakis and Shusako Endo.

Well, maybe. Or maybe not. Because -- and here's my second reason this book won't hurt her career -- Catholicism invented the Goth sensibility. You name it: the architecture, the candles, the superstition, and the constant tone of throttled eroticism. She can do this stuff from memory, and her people (I'm not one) slurp it up like blood from a virgin's throat.

Wow. The more I think about it, the more I think this may work. Somebody read the book and let me know.

Pastor Secretly Sells Church

The do things differently in California, I guess.

Read Andrew Sullivan

Father A. hasn't had much time for blogging lately. I blame parish duties, some teaching, and a head cold.

But Andrew Sullivan -- gay Catholic English Republican -- makes his living this way, so he's got all the time in the world. (As Satchmo sang in the saddest of all the .
Bond flicks). And people, the man has something to say.

Hadn't followed him in a while, so it came a shock this morning to see how much he has come to hate the Bush administration. Mostly it's the lying, secrecy, torture, and secret prisons. And then there's the anti-gay-marriage stuff. Oh, and Cheney thinking he's a king instead of an elected official

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Seminarians in Debt

The number of seminary students who borrow big money ($20k+) to complete their education has quadrupled in ten years, according to a new report. Not only that, but many more now enter graduate programs with significant debt from their undergraduate years.

This has serious ramifications for US congregations. Pastors don't earn that much to begin with -- a fair living, generally speaking, but no fortune. And less at smaller parishes. It used to work okay, back when seminary education was more heavily subsidized by church bodies. But as the money has run out among the mainstream denominations, so have those subsisidies. Which means that newly-ordained pastors, carrying more debt, may have to steer away from smaller, struggling congregations. Which will in turn struggle harder.

Bad news. But there is a funny part. The report refers to this as "theological debt." Well, no. It's educational debt. Theological debt was the basis of Anselm's atonement theory in Cur deus homo.

Okay. Maybe it's only funny if you blew a fortune on seminary.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bush Back on the Sauce?

That's the report in the usually unreliable National Enquirer. The claim is that Hurricane Katrina was too much for him, and Laura found him swigging Jim Beam from the bottle. Naturally, we don't believe a word of it.

But apparently, an online gambling service called BetCRIS is now offering various Bush-related odds:

"Bush exposed for drinking alcohol during his presidency is featured with odds of 5 to 1. Compare that with 15 to 1 odds that Bush actually admits to drinking alcohol.

"Bush checking into a rehab program is listed with 40 to 1 odds. Bush becoming a preacher is listed with 2 to 1 odds. Bush converting to Judaism is posted with 300 to 1 odds. Bush becoming a Muslim is posted with 500 to 1 odds. Bush becomes a spokesman for Viagra/Cialis is listed with 35 to 1 odds. . . ."

We certainly would not wish the President a return to dipsomania. Nor -- being a preacher ourselves -- would we wish him a place in our guild. But many mysteries concerning Afghanistan and Iraq might be explained if, after leaving office, he were to become a shill for impotence medications.

Oh, and in case you were wondering: BetCRIS offers no odds at all as to whether Bush gets impeached.

Speaking of Scared...

Turns out Roy Moore (see below under "Certain Southern Judges") is a poet. Seriously. Click the link.

Okay, I'm Scared

Headline: "I Killed So Many, I Lost Count, Says Boy, 11." It's an article on the Lord's Resistance Army, a Ugandan terrorist organization made up almost entirely of abducted children, who are used both as soldiers and sex toys.

Don't let the name fool you. These people, obviously, are freaks; they have more in common with the Maoist Sendero Luminoso than with any genuine religious movement. They aren't Christian, although -- like certain Southern judges we could name -- they do want to rule their nation according to the Ten Commandments. (Well, sorta kinda. "Thou shalt not kill" apparently doesn't count -- in either case.)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Right Joins Reality-Based Community

Conservatives seem pretty worked up over Harriet Miers and her lack of paper trail. In the Wasington Post article above, Cathie Adams, president of the Texas Eagle Forum, says "President Bush is asking us to have faith in things unseen. We only have that kind of faith in God."

Er, um, we thought you people thought he was God. Didn't one of you people say, on TV during the last camapign, "God is in the White House"? Of course that's what you believe. What else would explain your belief in his omniscience regarding WMDs? His omnipotence regarding AIDS in Africa? His omnibenevolence, encapsulated in the meaningless nostrum "compassionate conservatism"?

Of course, not all gods are created equal. In case after case, the President has asked for our faith without offering a credible reason -- and in case after case, he has failed to deliver. As gods go, he's proven to be one of the falser ones.

Sacrilege aside, Bush's critics have been arguing for years that he makes policy decisions based on convictions, rather than facts. The classic expression is Ron Suskind's 2004
Times magazine article, in which he quotes "a senior advisor to Bush" mocking the "reality-based community," those poor deluded fools who believe that "solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." This, according to the advisor, just ain't the way the Administration works. And indeed it hasn't been. Instead of actually analyzing facts, the Prwsident has proudly, boldly, led with his gut -- or, anyway, his big mouth. And the idolaters have gone along, trusting his word rather than the facts.

So Cathie Adams is (shudder!) right on this. Confidence in the President requires a kind of faith which should properly be reserved for God -- and which, when given to a human being, is inevitably misplaced. Welcome aboard, Cathie. Wish you'd gotten here before the ship began to sink.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Mormons Watch Porn-Lite.

Per the Provo, Utah Herald:

Copies of a movie aimed at a Mormon audience have been pulled from store shelves after a recording mix-up left buyers watching "Adored: Diary of a Porn Star" instead of the squeaky clean "Sons of Provo."

This is funny, but funny stuff happens. What really tickles us is a line several grafs down, as the "Adored" producers clarify the nature of their product:

"Adored: Diary of a Porn Star" is an unrated independent film that is not pornographic, said Corey Eubanks, spokesman for Wolfe Video, the largest distributor of films featuring gay and lesbian characters and stories. However, the film does contain sexual situations and its subject is the life of a gay porn star. "It's a very heartwarming film about a porn star that reconnects with his family," Eubanks said. "It's not a porn film at all. It's just about someone who is a porn actor."

Pity the poor Mormons. We thought 3.2% beer was bad enough -- but even their porn is watered down.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Crossdressing Suicide Bomber

It's not funny, nor is it meant to be. But it is curious. Iraq's first female suicide bomber is reported to have worn men's robes to disguise her weapons -- which were studded with metal balls, to cause more injuries. She killed seven, and wounded 37.

We may be wrong here. But we'll bet that Shariah takes a dim view of gender-bending. Of course, we also thought that it took a dim view of mass murder, so that shows our ignorance.

In another piece of horrible Mesopotamian news, the core lay leadership of
St. George's Anglican Church, Baghdad, disappeared and is presumed dead on the road between Falujah and Ramadi. They were returning from a conference in Jordan, and are at this writing two weeks overdue.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

You Mean They Have Gays in Seminary?

The Vatican wants to stamp out gay seminarians. Again.

Periodic purges of Roman Catholic seminaries have taken place for years, because the Roman see believes that gay people are
"intrinsically disordered"," and therefore unfit for ministry. (Here's an old Slate story, from which I stole the graphic by Robert Neubecker). Now, per the AP story above, they are adding the claim that they want to help people keep their vows, and "it's harder to stay celibate in an all-male environment."

How humanitarian of them! And heaven knows, after seminary is over, there aren't any women in parish life. Except the women, I mean. The ones who are the week-to-week core volunteer group in nearly every parish, the altar guild and the social workers and the nuns, secretaries, housekeepers, friends, confidantes, colleagues . . . . You get the idea.

The truth, quite obviously, is that Roman Catholic bishops, having failed for years to deal effectively with the genuine deviants in their corps, are still trying to convince us that if they could just get rid of the gays, then there wouldn't be any more priests diddling altar boys.
Richard John Neuhaus , the tired old drumbeater of yesterday's orthodoxy, has argued, pathetically, that child molestation is a homesexuality issue, rather than a ... well, a child molestation issue. But what these guys are selling, ain't nobody buying.

Here's the commonsensical bottom line: if you are going to insist on celibate priesthood, then, by gum, you ought to insist on a celibate priesthood. In which case, it ought not to matter who a man wants to sleep with, if he isn't sleeping with anybody but his teddy bear. And if he slips, it's a breach to be disciplined, regardless of whether he slipped with an xx or an xy. And if in the course of slipping -- here's the big point -- if he commits a crime, you kick his sorry cassock to the curb.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Muslims Don't Want a Holocaust

Iran's president, clutching at straws in his effort to build nuclear facilities unmolested, sent up this trial balloon: "Our religion prohibits us from having nuclear arms."

I just wish somebody would tell that to Pakistan.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Madge's Boytoy Nixes Redthread "Cult"

How's that for an inscrutable header? Translated out of tabspeak, it means that Madonna's husband, director Guy Ritchie, has apparently told her that he's done with Kabbalah. He seems to feel that time spent with his wife's religious community caused him to do a less-than-superb job on his most recent movie. While some sources (the Daily Star) say the sinewy songstress is "fuming," others (Fox, but still) suggest that she is herself beginning to wonder about the fate of her donations to a Kabbalah-for-kids foundation.

Now, let's be clear: old Father Anon. is a huge Madonna fan. After all, she does sex-religion-politics, I do sex-religion-politics. Had she answered all my fan letters in the early 80s, we could have made beautiful music together. (Well, if I weren't tone deaf.) I liked the whole Catholic-tramp phase (Like a Virgin, etc.) and liked the yoga-pop phase even even more (Ray of Light and the
mehndi business). But the Kabbalah thing has always struck a wrong note.

Why? Hard to say. Like most evangelicals, I'm not wild about mysticism. But like most catholics, I also have a soft spot for it, at least in theory. And back when kabbalah was still a form of medieval Jewish mysticism, the esoteric province of aged rabbis with huge beards, I thought it was kind of cool. But these days, it seems to have become something else: one more slickly-marketed, anything-you-want-it-to-be New Age "spirituality," unhitched from its moorings in Torah and tradition. Just another
another damned cult -- and specifically, another damned Baby Boomer cult.

Boomers burn my britches. First they got their patient elders to pretty much wreck Christian worship back in the 60s and 70s --
folk masses, anybody? Then, after the Church had bent over and taken it from them, they decided that wasn't really their bag, man. Over the years, they and their fickle self-indulgence have serially cheapened every religious movement they have been able to find -- sweat lodges and peyote, Zen and yoga, now kabbalah. They pick it up, play with it, produce a version which is "spiritual but not religious" -- meaning not what the founders and ancient practitioners actually think it is at all -- and then get bored (but claim to be disillusioned) and move on. If I were a Sufi, I'd watch my back. Fair warning, guys: You're next.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Muslims Want Their Own Holocaust Day

Actually, what they want is to subvert Britain's Holocaust Day -- which commemorates the systematic effort to obliterate all Jews from the face of the earth. Apparently, they feel that remembering this fact somehow suggests that "western lives have more value than non-western lives." After all, they say, adherents of their own faith have been brutally murdered in Palestine, Chechnya and Bosnia. Can't the Brits declare a National Genocide Day?

Okay. Where to start with this?

First, Palestine and Chechnya -- although ugly, brutal and uncivilized -- are not strictly speaking genocide. Second, the business about Western vs. non-Western is patently an effort to play what we Yanks would call the race card, and appeal to liberal guilt. It ignores the facts that (1) Islam is a religion, not an ethnic identity, and that (2) there are fair numbers both of Western Muslims and non-Western Jews. (And third, "National Genocide Day" has to be the worst holiday suggestion ever.)

But here's the real point. The Holocaust was a specific event, and one that we in the blood-soaked West do well to remember. It was, at least within modern times, our lowest hour -- and one we forget only at our peril. Britain, like America and most of the West, was briefly
seduced by the charms of Fascism -- and in the battle to regain its soul, paid a steep price in human life. For Brits to remember the Holocaust has particular meaning, because -- between the refugees they sheltered from it and the war they fought to end it -- the Holocaust has played a central role in Britain's modern history. It would be a grave mistake to mix its memory up with the memories of every other horrific event.

Certainly, there have been other genocidal moments in world history. Yes, the Christian war on Muslims in Bosnia was one of them -- as is the Muslim-directed war against animists and Christians in the
contemporary Sudan. Do we need to drag out the Armenians as well? If the Bosnians, Sudanese or Turks want to observe a national days of remembrance (or, in those cases, penitence), they are welcome to do so. They should. But the British have their own history to remember. It would be a grave mistake to muddle up the memory of the Holocaust with the memories of other distinct and terrible events -- each deserves the dignity of its own specific remembrance, especially by those whom it most affected.

Obviously, the Muslims in question here are hoping to vitiate what they perceive as too much Jewish influence on British society. Because Jews, as everybody knows, are the
secret conspiracy that runs the world. (Okay, English majors tend to side with Shelley, and say that poets are the unacknowledged legislators, and the real hard-core conspiracy theorists hold out for either (a) the Trilateral Commission or (b) activist judges. Oh, and (c) the aliens who planted this radio transmitter in my left molar and I can't make it stop....)

But here's the ugliest part of this story: the British Muslims making this recommendation aren't a bunch of Islamofascist crackpots. They are select committee drafted to advise the PM and his Queen's government on matters of extremism. Another such advisor recently opined, less than brilliantly, that Blair joined the Iraq war under the influence of a sinister group of
Jews and Freemasons. Who were no doubt sending him messages through that damned molar.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

A Heckuva Job

Scary remarks from the American Dynasty.

President Bush, on FEMA director Michael Brown: "Brownie's doing a heckuva job."

Well, yeah, if by "heck" you mean "hell," as in, "Brownie's delayed action has resulted in the Superdome becoming a living Hell for hurricane survivors." I don't have the video clip, but if you can find it, watch how sick Brownie looks at that moment. He knows he's a screwup.

Barbara Bush, to NPR's Marketplace: "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is [the Gulf Coast refugees] all want to stay in Texas. ... Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."
Hear the clip

Best comments on this? Well,
E.U. Eavesdrops takes a wryly academic approach: "Barbara Bush has agreed to teach a new class, Patrician Cluelessness 101, next semester. "

But we like DC Media Girl for directness: " Is she a hateful old bag or a big fat idiot?"

Be the Change You Seek

Here are a few people who are making a difference in New Orleans. Give them your money:

At risk of offering an apologia pro domo mea, those of us who were close to 9/11 have had a chance to be impressed by Lutheran Disaster Relief's commitment to long-term service in downtown Manhattan. They stayed (and are staying) long after most of the other agencies took off.

N.O.L.A., R.I.P.

Early this summer, Father A., accompanied by the beauteous Mrs. A., paid a visit to New Orleans. We were there to see her childhood home, a stone's throw from Notre Dame Seminary and a long walk from Tulane.

But make no mistake, this was more than a homecoming; it was a traditional Big Easy tourist visit: sazeracs and hurricanes; crawfish and beignets (although not together) -- and music. Lots and lots of music, from the perpetual spring break of Bourbon Street to the more grown-up sounds of Frenchman Street.

Our favorite was a dimly-lit and mercilessly un-airconditioned boite called the Funky Butt, on the north edge of the Quarter across from Congo Square. The walls were covered with pictures of naked tushies, and you didn't want to use the bathroom if you could help it. (And if you needed cash, they sent you to the gay bar next door, which had not only an ATM but also -- oddly -- an extensive collection of religious icons by Robert Lentz).

At the Butt one night, we heard an astonishing saxophonist named Devon Phillips, and on another Big Sam's Funky Nation. Our bearded jazz-buff bartender told us with real pride that Big Sam is the great-grandson of Buddy Bolden, one of the creators of jazz music.

And we met some wonderful people: from Richard, the amusingly adled ex-PGA pro, who regaled us with his memories of the Key West and the Conch Rebellion, to the coffee-hour crowd at St. Anna's Episcopal Church, who were embarrassed that their Mass hadn't been high enough that morning.

But that was then. Today, New Orleans is a disaster area, where snipers and bandits are struggling with burned-out cops and National Guard troops just arrived from their last disaster area. Tomorrow, if the worst predictions come true, New Orleans will be something else again: a city that needs to be bulldozed and rebuilt, a city whose identity was lost along with its neighborhoods. The new New Orleans will become another bland, modern American city -- and the old New Orleans will be a vanished memory, washed away by the flood. It will be an American Atlantis.

So, here in the safety of New York, I raise one last metaphorical glass to the old city. Here's to you, Congo Square and the Funky Butt; here's to you, Devon and Big Sam, Richard and Gloria and the crowd at St. Anna's. I hope you are alive; I hope you are safe and dry, with food and water. And I hope, someday, to see you all again.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Why Do Men Hate Church?

Pastors have been asking that question for years -- without ever blaming their sermons. So does David Murrow in a new book (click above for an uncritical review).

Sure, most of the clergy is male; so are a lot of key lay leaders. Some churches (the Missouri Synod branch of Lutheranism comes to mind) make a big deal about keeping it that way. So at first glance, you might think church was a pretty friendly place for Y-chromosomes.
Feminists have long argued that this is the case.

But at least since the 19th century, churches have been feminine to the point of frilly, at least according to Murrow and a few others. Today, while 5 out of 6 American men consider themselves Christians, only 2 out of those six show up in Sunday worship. Women are a substantial majority -- often 60% -- of many church services. A generation ago, historian
Ann Douglas argued that Victorian culture generally, and especially Victorian Christianity, had been "feminized," and readers seized on the implications for the present. Today, Leon Podles dates the problem to the 12th and 13th centuries, and believes the situation is so exacerbated that "Christianity has become part of the feminine world from which men feel they must distance themselves to attain masculinity."

Despite his foototes, Podles is not afraid of unsubstatiated claims, such as that ministers have the lowest testosterone levels of any male professionals, with movie actors having the highest. (Remind me not to get in a pissing contest with Wallace Shawn.) Nor is he averse to the occasional canard, as that priests aren't, for the most part, "real men." All this seems disturbing until you see the part where he reminisces about a friendly visit with Mother Angelica. That explains a lot, none of it good.

Still, Podles and Murrow may be on to something, at least demographically. And it may even be a problem. On the other hand, it's hard to work up much enthusiasm for the proposed solutions. The "Promise Keepers" movement flamed out pretty fast, because while most guys like arenas, very few want to cry and hug each other in one. Murrow seems to think that because men like to be active instead of passive, we should avoid talking about being saved. But that way lies the
Pelagian heresy in all its many forms.

Don't have the answer here. Not even sure there's a problem. But I'm gonna check with my doctor about that testosterone thing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A War on Islam

Eric the Unread argues that, if -- as many Muslims seem to believe -- Blair and Bush are fighting a war on Islam, they are doing a rather poor job. He has some suggestions for doing it right; be sure to click his last link.

Could Pat Robertson Get Any Crazier?

For those who may misunderstand, let us be clear: "Thou shalt not kill" is still on God's Top Ten list. Although not all Christians are strict pacifists, there is a pretty general consensus against murder. Which is why it comes as a shock to hear Pat Robertson call for the US to assassinate Hugo Chavez, the democratically elected president of Venezuela.

He did this on the ABC Family cable network, by the way. If this is "family" broadcasting, I'd love to know what ABC considers "demented raving" or "incitement to violence." (These days, Muslim clerics can be deported from Tony Blair's Britain for precisely this sort of incitement. )

Robertson has a history of
bizarre fatwas . In 2003, he suggested that the State Department be blown up with a nuclear device. On another occasion, he said that feminism encourages women to "kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."

Robertson's opposite number, Jesse Jackson, was moved to a rare display of genuine irony. Calling for an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission, like the one that followed l'affaire Janet, he said, "This is even more threatening to hemispheric stability than the flash of a breast on television during a ball game."

Televangelist, failed presidential candidate and
diet-shake salesman -- Robertson will do anything to avoid making an honest living. What he won't do, sadly, is keep his mouth shut.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Red And Green

A Christian cares more about taking care of the Earth than about earning a buck. Apparently, to Newsweek/MSNBC, this is big news.

Link to their piece on West Virginia librarian and seminary grad Allen Johnson, founder of Christians for the Mountains. He sounds like a good guy doing good work. What saddens us is that the media elite are amused or surprised by the idea of a Christian -- a "conservative," "red-state" Christian, as they are careful to mention -- who actually cares about something besides taxcutting and genital theology. And, being a major corporation themselves, they also chuckle condescendingly at the idea of a guy who only earns $20,000 per year "going up against the politically connected coal operators and wealthy lobbyists."

Folks, this is what Christians do. We take care of our neighbors, and our neighborhood, and the world God gave us. At least, that's what they taught me in my own small-town Sunday School. Of course, it could be my teachers had the wrong idea. After all, they weren't wealthy or politically connected, either.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

At Least He's Straight

That's what we figure a few highly-placed figures in the New York Archdiocese are thinking. Eugene Clark, rector of St. Patrick's Cathedral, stepped down August 11, amid rumors that he was, err, intimate with his secretary. Who is female.

Mind you, the relief that those same figures may feel over the secretary's femaleness may be attenuated somewhat by the fact that she is in the middle of a sloppy divorce. On one hand, the fact that her angry husband is the main accuser makes the whole story a little suspicious. On the other hand . . . divorce. Eek. Isn't Caesar's wife -- or his secretary -- supposed to be above suspicion?

In any case, the GLBT press in particular is gloating -- labeling him
"Creep of the Week." Seems Msgr. Clark has been pretty strident in his remarks on sex. In 2002 he blamed Roman Catholicism's recent scandals on "the campaign of liberal America against celibacy." Umm... yeah.

The Mattlage Award

The Egg's new "Mattlage Award" is offered to those who use weapons and violence to make the most blatantly self-defeating political statement. (Like showing your disagreement with peace protesters by firing a gun in the general area of the president -- see below, under "Moron Etc.")

Today's winners are the genius terrorists who set off bombs this morning all over Bangladesh, killing 2, wounding 140, and paralyzing the nation.

According to notes found at the blast sites, they wanted to send a message to Messrs. Bush and Blair: "Get out of Iraq! Stop killing Muslims. And if you don't, we'll . . . uh . . . kill some Muslims."

Woe Unto You That Are Rich

"Only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the Gospels," writes Bill McKibben, in Harper's. "Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife."

Every Sunday School teacher knows this (and unlike a lot of "Christians" in the public arena, McKibben is a Methodist Sunday School teacher, as well a a writer and environmentalist). But his point isn't merely that the 85% of Americans who call themselves Christian often know little or nothing of what their purported faith teaches. It is that, as a nation, we routinely make choices that are explicitly opposed to the values of the Gospel, in our personal lives as well as our political ones.

For example: "Despite the Sixth Commandment, we are, of course, the most violent rich nation on earth, with a murder rate four or five times that of our European peers. We have prison populations greater by a factor of six or seven than other rich nations (which at least should give us plenty of opportunity for visiting the prisoners). Having been told to turn the other cheek, we’re the only Western democracy left that executes its citizens, mostly in those states where Christianity is theoretically strongest." Yes, his definition of "the Gospel" is a little reductive, and certainly works-based. But show me your works, as St. James says.

The link only gets you an excerpt. But do yourself a favor: go to a newsstand and but the magazine (August, 2005 issue). It also features a too-scary-for-words piece on the stolen election and our servile press.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

In Other News: Tail Wags Dog

Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria, has called for the Church of England to be suspended from the Anglican Communion. Needless to say, the issue is sex. It always is. Doesn't anybody care about gluttony or avarice anymore?

Oh, nota bene: Despite the snarky title on our link, there are far more practicing Anglicans in Nigeria than in England. So, really, the tail and the dog are switching passports. or something like that . . . .

Monday, August 15, 2005

Marine Hero Goes Crazy; Shoots 2 in Boston

Heartbreaking story: Daniel Cotnoir, named "Marine of the Year" for his service as a USMC mortician in Iraq, fired a shotgun from the window of his Boston apartment, wounding two nightclub patrons below.

He pled not guilty, presumably by reason of insanity, and we take him at his lawyer's word. This sounds like classic PTSD . And here's the thing, America: there will be a lot more of this before we are finished in Iraq. Modern warfare -- certainly since WWI -- has proven to be psychologically destructive, for the winners at least as much as the losers.

So add this to the cost of Bush's adventure in Iraq: Not only is the budget surplus gone, not only will our grandchildren be paying off the new debt, not only is the Bill of Rights in constant danger -- but we can also expect to see a generation of combat veterans who are crippled emotionally as well as physically. Expect drug problems, domestic violence and -- yes -- the occasional war hero who goes on a shooting spree.

I don't want to make light of this, I truly don't. But come on, people -- did we learn nothing from First Blood?

Moron Fires Gun at Bush Ranch

We all know about Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq. She has been leading a protest vigil outside the Bush estate (come on -- ranch? It's an estate) in Texas. With about 60 people, she even had a religious service there Sunday morning.

But the point here is not Ms. Sheehan. It's Larry Mattlage, who owns a place across the street from where all this is happening. Seems Mr. Mattlage doesn't apporove of Ms. Sheehan's protest (or maybe he doesn't like the way she's blocking his view, or maybe he just hates church services. I dunno). So to show his annoyance, he fires off his gun a couple of times.

During the service. Across the street from the President's house. During a war.

Needless to say, the Secret Service was all over this moron like a cheap suit. But they didn't arrest him, because it seems that firing your shotgun into the air across the street from the President's house while people are praying for peace isn't a crime.

As Mr. Mattlage said, "This is Texas." You know, the place where they steal piggy banks from Sunday School children.

More Bad News for Lutherans

Piggy banks stolen in San Angelo, Texas. Okay, it's not as big a deal as all the sex business that dominates the headlines. But for 21 Sunday School kids, it was a life-lesson no less bitter than the one dished out for liberals by yesterday's Churchwide Assembly.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Lutherans Nix Gay Clerics

Click above for the best summary, via AP. Briefly, the Lutherans have said for years that they welcome gay members, but that they won't marry them or ordain them. (At least not officially; Fr. Anonymous knows plenty of gay Lutheran pastors and more than a few Lutherans whose same-sex unions have been blessed in church. But not officially.)

Anyhoo, after years and years and YEARS of discussion, they took a vote. Rumors of schism were in the air; Ann Tiemeyer's voice
cracked with emotion; protesters in rainbow scarves seated themselves up front and wouldn't move. And the ELCA Churchwide Assembly didn't move, either. For better or worse, Lutherans are left with a policy of mild hypocrisy, looking faithful to some and cowardly to others.

To the Egg, they just look like one more out-of-touch church group, run by the kind of Baby Boomers who like to pretend they were at Woodstock, but were in fact too chicken to leave the suburbs.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Why America Needs a Spiritual Left

Interesting article by Michael Lerner, in Tikkun. Of course, this is what the Catholic Worker people have been saying since forever. For that matter, so have the Jesuits. Not to mention the Anglo-Catholic Socialists you can link to on the sidebar, or all those Lutherans in Scandinavia. Beliefnet even says we have one already, and gives a list of the purported movment's leaders. It wasn't so long ago, of course, that a certain amount of "liberalism" -- concern for the poor, for the welfare of prisoners and the oppressed, all of that -- was what Americans expected in their religious leaders; these days, it seems to be a news flash.

So what does it say about our times that the idea of a religious Left seems alien, even threatening, to Americans on both sides of the Red/Blue divide?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Presbyterians Boycott Israel

Or, technically, Israel's business partners. Here's a tart editorial on the new Leftist anti-Semitism. (If you still believe America has a Left, which is a bigger question.)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Novak in Opus Dei

Here's something I didn't Know. Seems Robert Novak, D.B., is a member of the scary and cult-like Opus Dei. Not for nothing, but so was convicted spy Robert Hanssen. We're not big on conspiracy theories here at the Egg, but in this case maybe we'll make an exception.

Summer Reading

Many of us will spend the rest of our summer breathlessly awaiting, and then analyzing, the Lutheran Church's decisions about same-sex unions and gay pastors. For those of you who prefer to spend August the old-fashioned way, escaping into a good book, here are a few of Father Anonymous's favorite writers:

  • Susan Howatch: Lots of sex, lots of religion, not so much politics.
  • Anthony Trollope: he pretends to write about religion (in Barchester) and politics (in the Pallisers). But look closely -- sex and money are everywhere.
  • J.F. Powers: He gets it. About priests, about the Midwest, about ... well, just read.
  • Phil Rickman: Utterly realistic novels about an Anglican priest who is a single mother in a rural diocese. And solves murders. And exorcises demons.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Treason is a Bad Thing

Sounds obvious, doesn't it? And yet, somehow, a certain well-known public figure was able to publish in a nationally-syndicated column the name of a CIA covert operative . . . and escape punishment.

Okay, sure, she wasn't working undercover at the time. And, okay, sure, the free press is a grand thing. But come on. Judith Miller is in jail; Time sold out on journalistic ethics -- but Bob Novak is a free man.

The people who didn't publish the story are paying the penalty. The people who didn't serve as Karl Rove's bagman are paying the penalty. The people who didn't endanger the lives of Judith Plame and anybody who ever worked with her are paying the penaly.

The people who didn't betray their country are all in trouble. But Novak is a free man.

Oh, well. Here's the silver lining: We get to hear Jon Stewart call Novak a douche-bag on TV. Over and over again. And I, for one, don't get tired of it. Public ridicule isn't quite as good as jail time, but it does have its charms. Just ask our crazy Puritan forebears.

Something About Mary

So why Magdalene's Egg?

First, because in the eyes of the tradition, there is something sexual about Mary Magdalene. She is identified in the Gospels only as a recovering sinner (which is a fair description of any Christian). But in non-Biblical writings, her specific sin -- the "devils" that Jesus drove out of her -- is treated as sexual. The Church Fathers (who took a pretty grim view of sexual desire) identified her as, in essence, the village tramp of Magdala. In "Jesus Christ Superstar," she is the Lord's sorta-girlfriend. And thanks to Dan Brown, half the planet now seems to think she was his wife, but it all got covered up by the clergy. (Oy, vey -- like people who can barely organize a decent youth outing to Great Adventure are soooo good at orchestrating thousand-year coverups.)

Second, because there is something religious about her. Okay, a lot religious: She is second only to the Virgin in importance among the women who folowed Jesus. Sts. Luke and John make her the first person to proclaim the Resurrection -- in effect, the first Christian preacher. Afterward -- again, according to tradition, and certainly not the Bible -- she is said to have been a missionary in either Europe or Turkey (depending, I suppose, on which cathedral's relics you were trying to promote). Scholars of the Elaine Pagels school even think she might have been the leader of one wing in early Christianity, a sort of counter-Peter.

And third, because there is something political about her. The story goes that, in the course of her mission work, she found herself at a feast held by Caesar Tiberius. You know, the guy in charge of the Whole Known World. When he runs into her, she happens to be holding an egg. She starts talking about the Resurrection, and he laughs. There is less chance, says Caesar, of that egg in her hand turning red than there is of a man rising from the dead. And withing moments, the egg turns red.

So there's Mary Magdalene and her egg, in the picture I stole from an
Episcopal parish website (which I am guessing stole it from an Orthodox one). She's a symbol of things that matter: sex, religion, and politics. The world wants to keep them separate, but the Magdalene's egg stands over against the world. Desire, faith and power come together in her story -- and together, they start to tell the truth about being human.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Here's the Plan.

They say you shouldn't talk about sex, religion, or politics. Not in polite company. Not if you want to make friends, keep your job, be popular.

I say screw 'em.

After all, what does anybody really care about? Flip on the TV and tell me what you see -- sex, religion and politics. Which is great, because people -- me included -- love these things.

Except the mass media (and especially the Tube) are deeply committed to giving us watered-down versions of all three. You know, the kind that get you excited but don't ever satisfy you. The "Baywatch Girls" can run across the sand for years; but Janet Jackson shows one boob and she's a pariah. The cable news people can scream and scream -- or in Novak's case, slink off in disgrace -- but they are so scared of getting the Dan Rather treatment that they would die before reporting an actual story.

And religion on TV? Puh-leeze. You have your choice between freaks and thugs: Creflo Dollar's "Prosperity Gospel" (remember how well that worked for Jesus?) to Mother Angelica's libellous claim that her own bishop didn't believe in the Eucharist.

But you know what? There are people who like sex, and like to talk about it, and I don't mean titillating talk, I mean serious talk about what sex means. And the same with politics, and even (sometimes) religion. I'm one of them, and if I haven't offended you so far, then maybe you are too.

So let's talk about it.