Wednesday, September 28, 2005
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
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
I just wish somebody would tell that to Pakistan.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
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
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
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?"
Here are a few people who are making a difference in New Orleans. Give them your money:
- Lutheran World Relief/Lutheran Disaster Relief
- Catholic Charities
- American Red Cross
- Episcopal Relief and Development
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.
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.