Friday, August 31, 2007

Entertainment Weekly goes Church Lady


That is GetReligion's assessment in a wrap-up of the entertainment magazine's "Summer of Scandal!" issue that looks at the 25 biggest blow-ups since 1982:
It’s difficult to find any moral compass in this feature, except the notion that sexual promiscuity (Woody Allen, Rob Lowe, Charlie Sheen) matters far less than offensive speech (Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, Isaiah Washington). Even offensive speech is subjective. In a brief introduction, Sean Smith discerns that “Don Imus and Isaiah Washington both lost their jobs for saying something stupid. The Dixie Chicks initially lost album sales for saying something smart.” The closest the editors come to explaining this judgment is that The Dixie Chicks dissed President Bush before dissing him was cool.

I find it telling that the decisive criterion for each scandal is its “career impact” rather than how many people the behavior harmed, whether the celebrity expressed any remorse or whether there was any redemptive moment, whether metaphorical or clearly spiritual.

Religion hovers in a few of the top 25 scandals:

No. 25. Madonna angers the Pope! This item focuses more on Madonna’s oft-paraded sexual antics, but the photos do include her “crucified on a cross of glamour” moment. Career impact: Positive.

No. 14. Michael Richards talks like a 1960s Grand Kleagle! Career impact: Minor. Then there’s this tantalizing but vague postscript: “While on a spiritual journey in Cambodia last month, he told the L.A. Times that he has quit stand-up comedy.” (The Times reported: “Richards, 57, and actress Beth Skipp traveled to remote temples before visiting Angkor Wat on a tour sponsored by the Los Angeles-based Nithyananda Foundation. The sect adheres to the teachings of 29-year-old Hindu monk Nithyananda — an avowed ‘enlightened Master and modern mystic’ who’s referred to by his followers as ‘swamiji.’”

No. 11. Tom Cruise “dumps longtime publicist Pat Kingsley in March 2004 and hires fellow-Scientologist sister as her replacement”! This is EW’s only acknowledgment of a Scientology angle to Cruise’s behavior, although the more obvious connections are his criticism of Brooke Shields for taking medication amid postpartum depression and his lecturing NBC’s Matt Lauer about Ritalin. Career impact: Major.

No. 3. Sinéad O’Connor rips a photo of Pope John Paul II to pieces”! Career impact: Major.

No. 2. Mel Gibson, while drunk, makes vile anti-Jewish remarks! Career impact: To be determined.

And here are two bonus scandals that appeared in an online roundup of scandals 26 through 50:

46. Lisa Bonet gets nekkid! “Nineteen-year-old Cosby Show star Lisa Bonet was about to headline her own spinoff, A Different World, when she made her film debut as voodoo priestess Epiphany Proudfoot in Angel Heart, an erotic thriller in which she fogged up the lens with costar Mickey Rourke while (fake) chicken blood poured down on their naked bodies.” Career impact: Major.

30. Anne Heche suffers from divine multiple personality disorder! “On Aug. 19, 2000, a newly Ellen-less Anne Heche knocked on a stranger’s door near Fresno, Calif., and made herself at home. It wasn’t until the following year, when she sat for a 20/20 interview with Barbara Walters and published her autobiography, Call Me Crazy, that we got to know why: For years, Heche explained, she had an alter ego named Celestia, who believed she was the reincarnation of God. She and the Big Guy communicated through a secret language (sample: ‘Oh, Quiness, ah ka fota tuna dunna’). That day in Fresno, Celestia was making her way to her spaceship.” Career impact: Minor.

Thanks for the laff riot, EW! I’m not sure who’s more difficult to figure out: The celebrities who brought us these moments, or the editors who determined their moral gravity.

Craig Chronicles: Senator to resign

This just in: Republican officials say Sen. Larry Craig, the "family-values" scandal of the week, is considering resigning.

* Update: I've removed the "?" from the headline. Craig reportedly will resign Saturday.

'Who still talks of the extermination of the Armenians?'


In honor of not one, not two, but three op-eds in this week's Jewish Journal addressing the Armenian Genocide, I've decided to resurrect a post from April, pasted below. I also recommend reading a story The Forward published online Wednesday that said, "Turkish, Israeli and American Jewish officials held frantic consultations in the past week in an effort to defuse a diplomatic crisis."

All of the recent verbiage was, of course, inspired by Anti-Defamation League chief Abe Foxman, who two weeks ago fired his Boston director for criticizing the ADL's refusal to urge the U.S. and Israeli governments to use the "G" word. He then had an about-face, saying the Ottoman actions against the Armenians was "tantamount to genocide," and finally Foxman rehired the man he had just canned. (No, Foxman did not also offer David Lehrer his old job back.)

"We were comfortable calling what had happened massacres and atrocities, and had implored the Turkish government to come to terms with its past. Its not a reversal so much as more clearly getting involved in the discussion," ADL western director Amanda Susskind said in a phone interview. "And if we are going to get involved in the discussion, yes we are going to call it genocide. Of course, there will still be American military and political consequences."

Those supposed consequences are spelled out here and below. The Armenian community has hardly been satisfied, either, by Foxman's use of "tantamount to," an equivocation they believe was used to protect Turkish Jews and Israeli security.

"For any Jewish organization to pander to these killers -- historical killers -- on the idea that Jews are going to be taken care of by the Turks, or that it is going to protect their economic interest, is a great sell-out to the wonderful tradition of the Jews," Armand Arabian, a retired judge and leader in the L.A.-area Armenian community, the largest in the country, told me. "For those who buy that theory, the Holocaust didn't happen. The tattoos didn't mean anything."

From my April 24 post:

Hitler.JPG"Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?"

Hitler reportedly asked that question of his commanding generals in 1939, as he prepared to rid the world of Jews. Holocaust historians site this quotation when trying to explain Hitler's rational for how his acts would escape world condemnation. And yet, Jews -- who have so much in common with Armenians -- have struggled to embrace Armenians as true kindred spirits, diaspora people like Jews, who, though they did not suffer the Holocaust, suffered a holocaust.

Today marks the 92nd anniversary of the beginning of what most historians call the Armenian Genocide. And though most Western countries have recognized the acts as genocide, the United States and Israel have not. The U.S. has not wanted to offend an important military ally, and Israel has been hard pressed to condemn the founding fathers of the best friend in the Muslim world.

But the tide has shifted.

Two years ago, the Daily News' Lisa Friedman reported that Rep. Mark Lantos, Congress' only Holocaust survivor, had changed course and now supported a resolution to call the slaugthering of Armenians by Ottomon Turks a genocide. Media outlets have been all over the story this year, the year handicappers predict Congress might finally pass a non-binding resolution calling the atrocities genocide. (The LA Times had a front-page story Saturday and an Opinion cover Sunday.) A January headline in the Turkish Daily News proclaimed, "US Jewish lobby warns Turkish MFA: Even we might not be able to block the Armenian genocide bill if you don’t move."

Valley Beth Shalom, a Conservative Encino synagogue, has begun pushing for Jewish recognition. I covered an event the synagogue held in January that brought together Armenian and Jewish youth for a screening of the moving "Screamers," a documentary following the rock band System of a Down's campaign to have the genocide acknowledged across Europe and the U.S.

"Amnesia of the past foreshadows amnesia of the future. Forget yesterday's tragedy and the threat to tomorrow is denied. Forget the first genocide of the 20th century -- the murder of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 -- and the memory and atrocities of the first genocide of the 21st century in Darfur turn invisible, and the world response is muted," Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom wrote in this week's Jewish Journal.

" ... Every genocide is singular. But a kinship of suffering unites us all. To play the shameless game of "one-downsmanship" is an invidious sport. My blood is not redder than yours, my suffering not more painful than yours. Hatred consumes us all indiscriminately."

Schulweis, who founded the group Jewish World Watch, which is working against the genocide in Darfur, also will preside over a shabbat dinner for Armenians and Jews at his temple Friday night. He will be joined by His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate, Western Diocese/Armenian Church of North America.

Turkey does not dispute that more than a million Armenians were killed from 1915 to 1923, but it attributes the deaths to civil strife and notes that many Turks died then, too; there are even statues to who lost their lives.

"Let's unearth the truth about what happened in 1915 together," the Turkish embassy said in a full page ad on the back of the LA Times A section Monday. "We can face the truth about our past; we call upon the Armenians to do the same."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Spin alert: Larry Craig chronicles

My wife just sent me this message regarding Sen. Larry Craig's sexuality spinning:
So, as a PR person, I notice something very specific about what Larry Craig is and is not saying. He has denied that he is gay. However, if he really wanted to convince people, he would come out and say that he has never participated in gay activity, that he had no idea that anything he did in the restroom would have demonstrated "gay" behavior, etc ...

He would be very specifically denying that he knew anything about these signs he exhibited as gay behavior. But instead, he's just saying he's not gay.
Of course, some people claim that participating in homosexual relations doesn't make them "gay."

Another neocon working for Giuliani


Look who Ken Silverstein found on Rudy Giuliani's presidential candidate roster: Daniel Pipes.

Pipes has been attacked by Muslim organizations as a fear-mongering Islamophobic fascist. But this comment from Pipes in a story I wrote about young American Muslims sympathetic to suicide bombings, in which the president of Long Beach's MSA told me he thinks Islam justifies the attacks on civilians, seemed pretty measured:
What you have is a low-wage jihad taking place, but people are not paying attention to it. These sentiments are seething, and at any time might erupt.
I noted last month that Giuliani, who has proven incredibly unpopular with evangelical Christians, had enlisted neoconservative Commentary editor-at-large Norman Podhoretz. Here's what Silverstein, the excellent Harper's Washington editor behind that lobbying story from July, had to say about Pipes:

I think it’s fair to say that Pipes is even further out ideologically than Norman Podhoretz, another Giuliani adviser. Readers unfamiliar with Pipes can check out his profile at Wikipedia. For a representative sampling of his work, consider a 2006 article he wrote in the Jerusalem Post (not available online):

Iraq’s plight is neither a coalition responsibility nor a particular danger to the West. Fixing Iraq is neither the coalition’s responsibility, nor its burden. When Sunni terrorists target Shi’ites and vice versa, non-Muslims are less likely to be hurt. Civil war in Iraq, in short, would be a humanitarian tragedy, but not a strategic one.

Pleading guilty means Larry Craig's guilty

More fallout for Sen. Larry Craig, from Talking Points Memo:
Almost as soon as Sen. Larry Craig issued a statement Monday afternoon saying he should not have pleaded guilty in the Minneapolis airport restroom case (his press flack told Roll Call it was all a “he said/he said misunderstanding”), speculation began swirling that Craig may face legal consequences for disavowing his guilty plea. That was only compounded by his public appearance the next day, in which he announced that he had finally retained legal counsel to review the case. The LA Times has a good overview of the possible consequences for Craig of trying to reopen his case--none of them good.

His Eminence, President-for-Life Bush

When I was a student at UCLA, I wrote a story about the former co-director of the Drug Policy Analysis Program who had just been convicted of running one of the largest LSD labs in American history. It turned out, he was hired by the university despite serious previous drug run-ins.
In that article, I quoted Mark Kleiman, then the director of the program and a public policy professor, declining to comment about his former colleague. Nowadays, though, Kleiman has plenty to say on the blog he contributes to, The Reality-Based Community. He's a bit liberal for my leanings, but always a good read. This one from last week is worth a look:

Boy oh boy, did I ever get this one wrong!

No hoax: Family Security Matters, a front group for Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy, really did run a piece by a failed philosopher called Philip Atkinson calling for a genocidal campaign in Iraq followed by the use of the victorious army to establish George W. Bush as President-for-Life with dictatorial powers. (Full text at the jump; has to be read to be believed.)

When this first came out, I was pretty sure I smelled a parody, but it turns out the guy was completely serious.

The argument of the piece, to give it an unduly generous label, calls for a diagnosis rather than a refutation. No wonder FSM "disappeared" not only the article (which has even been wiped from the cache) but the author, who has gone from "Contributing Editor" to "unperson" in record time. Winston Smith of the Ministry of Truth would be proud.

Presumably the scrubbing means that some semi-grownup somewhere in Gaffney's operation noticed that Atkinson had finally parted company with even the neocon substitute for reality.



Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Was Vick born again? Christians make the call


You know what I think about Michael Vick's claim that executing poorly performing pitbulls helped him find Jesus. (A lot of people learned my opinion after Deadspin linked to my cynicism.) But if you're wondering what other Christians think, check out this poll at ChristianityToday.com.

So far, 61 percent of the 2,250 respondents are "skeptical, but hopeful that this experience will bring him to Jesus." Thirteen percent say "Great! I'm so happy he's become a Christian," and 12 percent aren't impressed because "'I found Jesus' is the new 'I'm going to rehab' (that's for you Britney and Paris). And 9 percent are flat-out "disgusted that he'd try to play the 'God card.'"

Three Palestinian kids killed by Israeli attack

In my story last week about Israeli life along the Gaza border, I wrote about how the government had been criticized for its tepid response to rocket attacks from Palestinian militants. Instead of a full military operation, which would no doubt cause even more civilian casualties, IDF had been instructed to target Kassam launchers and militant leaders. This, sadly, is what they call "collateral damage."
Three Palestinian children were killed on Wednesday afternoon in a blast in the northern Gaza Strip, when an Israel Defense Forces tank fired on a Qassam rocket launcher.

Dr. Moaiya Hassanain of the Palestinian Health Ministry said 10-year-old Mahmoud Ghazal and his 12-year-old cousin Yehiya Ghazal were killed immediately. Their 10-year-old cousin Sara Ghazal was critically injured, and died later from her wounds.

The IDF said it fired on the Qassam launcher after it detected unidentified figures next to it.

A relative of the children, Wasfi Ghazal, said he heard the sound of an explosion and then children screaming. He held both Israel and the militant rocket squads responsible.

"We are victims of the occupation and victims of the misbehavior of some of the fighters who are randomly choosing our area to target Israel," he told The Associated Press.

The IDF expressed sorrow for the deaths of the children, but blamed militant groups.

Televangelist loses broadcast after slamming Islam


Wow. I missed this yesterday, but the DMN religion blog caught it. The pope has nothing on the incendiary statements of (former tel)-evangelist Bill Keller:

A station in St. Petersburg has pulled the plug on Bill Keller, who said in a May 2 broadcast that Islam is a "1,400-year-old lie from the pits of hell" and that the Prophet Muhammad was a "murdering pedophile." He also called the Quran a "book of fables and a book of lies."

Here's the story by Sherri Day of the St. Pete Times.

Keller says he was canned because of pressure from the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The TV station says, no, the decision was just a programming one, whatever that means.

Day writes: "This is not the first time Keller, 49, has upset religious groups. Since he began his Live Prayer Internet ministry in 1999, he has skewered Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientologists, calling them false religions and cults. He also speaks against abortion, calls Oprah a 'new age witch' for embracing diverse religions and says megachurch pastor Joel Osteen is a 'gutless wonder.' "

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

'You are both'

Self-flattery is very unbecoming. That's why I quote others saying nice things about me. (Don't worry. It doesn't happen often.) The comments on my Q&A with The Forward have slowed to a trickle, but Carolyn wrote today that I am "a man more articulate than most." My wife might balk, but I like Carolyn's final point, on which many more people disagree:
It's unfortunate that people seem to think of religion the same way as a sports team. "Well, are you Jewish OR are you a Christian?" If you've studied the origin of Christianity, you know that it comes from Judaism and is very closely related. Some of us are Judeo-Christians, and today's organized religions don't seem to understand what that means. To Brad Greenberg I say that I'm proud of you for declaring who you are and being willing to put up with the replies that it brings you and, as a man more articulate than most, to explain that yes, you are both.

Larry Craig's sexuality a 'holy grail' in Idaho

The Bible Belt Blogger has a personal account of being a cub reporter covering the Idaho senator at the center of today's GOP sex scandal:

Rumors had been around for years that [Larry] Craig was gay. And some Idaho journalists were eager to find out if the rumors were true -- and print them.

Because Craig had voted against "gay rights' legislation, some reporters considered his sexual orientation to be fair game. I felt like Sen. Craig's sex life should be off-limits -- as long as he obeyed the law.

As I recall, during the 1996 campaign I was instructed to ask Sen. Craig about the rumors that he was gay. I asked as discretely as possible -- during a lengthy interview when there weren't plenty of people eavesdropping. I think I apologized for having to broach the subject. He denied the allegations. I felt sleazy even raising the topic.

That was the end of the matter for me, but other reporters continued digging -- off and on for over a decade. It was like the Holy Grail of Idaho journalism -- to figure out Larry Craig's sexual proclivities.

What's wrong with United Methodists?

"Amazing Grace" is a great hymn, so it's no surprise that melody is the favorite among Methodists surveyed in 2000 and again in 2006. What baffles me is that "Be Thou My Vision" didn't make the top 20 either year.

That hymn has long been my favorite. And there is nothing like hearing it sung by the scratchy voice of Pedro the Lion's David Bazan, who sadly has lost his faith.




(Hat tip: DMN religion blog)

From my inbox: 'Rag head go home'

Islamophobia is a favorite topic of The God Blog. Add this report from CAIR, which just arrived in my inbox, to the list:
The Sacramento Valley chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SV) reported today that racist slurs were spray-painted on a car stolen from a California Muslim.

CAIR said the Muslim woman's late-model car was stolen from the parking lot of a shopping center in Sacramento, Calif., earlier with month. When police found the car days later, the hood and truck were spray-painted with slurs such as "rag head go home."

The Israel Baseball League halfway to hell


All summer I've been waiting for Sandy Koufax to make his triumphant return to baseball in the Israel Baseball League. Now it seems not even the great southpaw can save the hapless IBL. From TabloidBaby, via Luke Ford:
(T)he result, say many, were more errors than hits: players threatening to strike when paychecks were late; a manager hired to help give face to the fledgling league leaving in the middle of the season, after trashing the league to the media; and a player almost killed by a batting practice line drive, an accident that might have been prevented with proper equipment.

(skip)

“I’ve lost almost 17 pounds since I’ve been here,” said Scott Jarmakowicz, a catcher for the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox. “Over half my paycheck, at least half, has gone to food. It’s not sustainable eating the same schnitzel and boiled eggs three times a day."
Elli Wohlgelernter's story goes on for another 3,200 words, detailing players' myriad grievances. When I was in Israel this month, the Jerusalem Post ran this story about IBL returning in '08. The accompanying photo was of empty seats. Not bleachers, but the stackable plastic seats you find at at outdoor food court.

Of the major sports, Jews have been most successful at baseball. But can anything save the Israel Baseball League?

Another GOP politician caught in sex scandal

It seems like twice a week I get an e-mail in my inbox from a certain family member that has a link to MSNBC and says something like the one I received today, "GOP hypocrisy goes on." Here's the story:
WASHINGTON - Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who has voted against gay marriage and opposes extending special protections to gay and lesbian crime victims, finds his political future in doubt after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges stemming from complaints of lewd conduct in a men's room.

The conservative three-term senator, who has represented Idaho in Congress for more than a quarter-century, is up for re-election next year. He hasn't said if he will run for a fourth term in 2008 and was expected to announce his plans this fall.

(skip)

The married Craig, 62, has faced rumors about his sexuality since the 1980s, but allegations that he has engaged in gay sex have never been substantiated. Craig has denied the assertions, which he calls ridiculous.
When I started on the religion beat in San Bernardino, a colleague on the local politics beat thought a should pay more attention to the stories about how socially conservative politicians -- the so-called family-values folk -- fared when their behavior was unholy. In the two-plus years since then, I can't even count the number of these stories, from city councils to Capitol Hill, and across party lines, that have arisen.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Does ritual meditation belong in schools?

An editor once told me to avoid quoting officials from Americans United for Separation of Church and State because, he said, they lack any constituency and its executive director, the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, often looks like a caricature of a religious libertarian.

But this morning, as I listened to a report on NPR's Day to Day about more public schools teaching children transcendental meditation, and as I began to ponder how I would blog about the religious implications of such a school program, a lawyer involved with AU was quoted on the segment saying much of what I had been thinking:
"It's not the business of the public schools to lead kids to inner-peace through a spiritual process. ... If you teach transcendental mediation, you open the floodgates and allow any spiritual or religious group to have access to formal teaching of its edicts in public schools."
The goal of the program is to "reduce stress, increase focus and bolster achievement," and the principal of the inner-city school featured on the report said that attacks on TM as religious ritual are overblown. "I'm a Baptist. ... I have one God."

Still, I have serious reservations about a movement reportedly spreading to 100 schools nationwide by next year. School prayer cannot be institutionally driven when it is Christian or Muslim or Jewish in theme. So why would religious prayer be OK when it has roots in an eastern religion?

Tangentially: A great episode from the third season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" -- they're all great -- is "The Special Section," in which Larry David gives Richard Lewis his meditating mantra, "Jai-ya." The phrase, which Larry had said thousands of times before, is not actually something that brings peace, but causes more of the chaos common to Larry David's life. It means "F--- me."

Michael Vick loves the Lord


Well, Michael Vick did it. He did what ever other celebrity does when they get in trouble. Like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton already did this summer, Vick, the dog butcher I used to find so exciting to watch as QB of the Falcons, found Jesus:
I'm upset with myself, and, you know, through this situation I found Jesus and asked him for forgiveness and turned my life over to God. And I think that's the right thing to do as of right now.

Like I said, for this entire situation I never pointed the finger at anybody else, I accepted responsibility for my actions of what I did and now I have to pay the consequences for it. But in a sense, I think it will help, you know, me as a person.
I hope he did. I really do. But -- call me a cynic -- I’m always a bit skeptical when public figures use Jesus to boost their popularity.

Lamenting Jewish 'exceptionalism'

I like prodding my wife, who is not of Jewish descent, with claims of a special Jewish intelligence. I bring home issues of The Jewish Journal like this one and e-mail her essays like Charles Murray's "Jewish Genius."

But in this week's New Jersey Jewish News (hat tip: Bintel Blog), Editor-in-Chief Andrew Silow-Carroll laments Jewish exceptionalism.
Of course, we have no one to blame but ourselves for the inordinate amount of attention we attract. We learned a lot of things in the desert but never quite got the hang of camouflage. When fate was handing out professions we picked finance, law, medicine, and movie-making. When God was handing out land, we said sure, we'll take that one, the one sitting in the middle of about a gazillion Muslims. Maybe they won't notice.

And we make our own claims for exceptionalism, proudly but not always wisely. We're happy to be included among the world's "Three Great Religions," and then we're shocked by "God's Warriors," a six-hour series on CNN that devotes as much time to our crazies as it does to the Muslims' and Christians'. I'd be happy to be demoted to the list of the world's Not-So-Great Religions if it meant never having to suffer through another Christiane Amanpour interview with a Jewish extremist who is best known for failing to blow up the Dome of the Rock.

But that's the price of exceptionalism: Specious comparisons between a tiny people's relatively marginal record of terrorism, versus state-sponsored mass murderers who have destroyed untold numbers of mosques and shrines in Iraq and Hindu temples in India and Pakistan, not to mention the occasional synagogue.

The problem I have with this statement begins with "When God was handing out land." I don't recall God saying to Moses, "Where do you want to build my kingdom?" It was: "That occupied land over there -- yeah, the one with the giants living in it. That's where I want you to live. Go take it."

Secondly, there were no Muslims then, and there wouldn't be until 500-plus years after the destruction of the Second Temple.

Nonetheless, Silow-Carroll's point is an important one: Jews seems to suffer more as a group and are held to a higher standard than others. Like Silow-Carroll, a lot of Jews have been bemoaning the attention dedicated to the Jewish extremists in "God's Jewish Warriors." Here was what Robert J. Avrech, a Orthodox screenwriter, had to say at his blog, Seraphic Secret:

The whole two hours of this Al Jazeera program is such typical, and poisonous Arab propaganda that Karen and I are kind of fascinated. This huge lady [Christiane Amanpour] with the really bad hair interviews guess who as experts on Israel?

Jimmy Carter. Karen Armstrong. John Mearsheimer. There's the obligatory angry loser from Peace Now — dude, clean your office, it looks like cat litter. And a couple of Israeli lefties who are so far gone they might as well be living in Damascus.

Gee-willikers, Al Jazeera lady forgot to interview Hizbullah/Iranian-proxy strongman Hassan Nasrallah; his views on Israel are pretty much the same as the usual suspects above. He's always ranting about the evils of the Israeli occupation. And he vehemently denies that he's a Jew-hater. Like Carter, Armstrong and Mearsheimer he insists that he's merely anti-Zionist.Yup, Nasrallah gets positively indignant when he's accused of being an anti-Semite. Sheesh, can't anyone criticize and bomb Israel without being accused of being a Jew-hater?

There's this long segment on the — horror musical sting here — Israel lobby. Obligatory shots of well-dressed, um Jews, tables of food, which I suppose is proof of evil, people chatting and looking, y'know, conspiratorial.

I'm waiting for Al Jazeera lady to start quoting The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, because that's really what this segment is all about, but I suppose she's too cool for that. This is after all Al Jazeera. They are , allegedly, civilized.

Then fullback lady pulls out the big guns: Actual Jewish terrorists. She comes up with Baruch Goldstein, Yigal Amir, and a group who rigged explosives to the car of an Arab Mayor they suspected of aiding terrorists and who planned on blowing up an Arab girl's school, Disgusting and wrong, but they were caught and arrested, by Jewish cops, thank G-d.

That's it for Jewish terror.

Personally, I think the Jewish people have shown remarkable restraint in the face of a genocidal enemy.

Back to Silow-Carroll, who notes that Yiddish scholar Ruth Wisse "thinks the world insists on Jewish exceptionalism as part of a 'culture of blame' — as a way for countries and cultures to distract their followers from their real problems." He then concludes with this:

I'm proud of the Jews. I really am. But sometimes I'm with Tevye. "I know, I know. We are Your chosen people," says the hero of Fiddler on the Roof. "But, once in a while, can't You choose someone else?"

Change of address

At some point today, The Jewish Journal's web editor will move The God Blog to its new home at jewishjournal.com/thegodblog.

I'll continue publishing through Blogger, so you'll still be able to get to The God Blog through bradgreenberg.blogspot.com and thegodblog.org

Months in making, AG Gonzales resigns


If Alberto Gonzales had stepped down in February, no one would have been surprised. But he refused and President Bush backed him, which makes today's announcement quite the about-face. The Lede puts it this way:
The resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, reported this morning in The Times, appears to have achieved the distinction of being both highly expected and, somehow, not expected all.
Once Bush's golden boy behind Karl Rove, Gonzales had fallen out of favor with what seems like every American outside the Executive Branch.

Religion never played as prominent a role in Gonzales' political behavior as it did in that of his predecessor, John Ashcroft. And I'd say that was a good thing.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Britons aren't Islamophobic but Semitophobic

I've written a bit about Muslim fears of growing Islamophobia, but Emanuele Ottolenghi, director of the Transatlantic Institute and a regular contributor to the Commentary blog Contentions, says there is a more disturbing trend in the United Kingdom:

A recent poll now offers us a new perspective on this issue. The good news is that, according to the Harris Interactive/Financial Times survey, the majority of Britons—59 percent—thinks that “it is possible to be both a Muslim and a Briton.” The bad news is that 29 percent disagrees. Still, given the circumstances, one can interpret these data to mean that Britain remains, overall, tolerant. Of Muslims, that is. But when asked to respond to a similar proposition about Jews in a recent Anti-Defamation League sponsored poll (”Jews are more loyal to Israel than to Britain”), 50 percent of Britons answered yes.

This is strange, to say the least. Jews have had no problem integrating in the UK. As for Israel, its sound and solid relation with Great Britain derives from a commonality of interests and values. Jewish extremists have not blown themselves up in the London tube. They do not advocate the establishment of a global Jewish theocracy to dominate the world—as Hizb-ut-Tahrir does—and when they get angry or offended at depictions of their beliefs and habits, Jews will at most write angry emails and letters to the editors, not call for the beheading of those who insult Judaism. Nevertheless, half of England doubts their loyalty.

British attitudes to Muslims could, and should, be better. But it is British attitudes towards Jews that truly expose intolerance.

America's next invasion: Vietnam


I'm not one for opinion columnists, and this piece has little to do with religion (except maybe that our heavenly picked president could use some divine intervention), but Rosa Brooks goes sort of Jonathan Swift on President Bush's speech Wednesday.
Re-invade Vietnam!

Oh yes. You thought the Bush administration was fresh out of ideas? You thought that with Karl Rove leaving, the administration that brought us the war in Iraq and "Mission Accomplished" had no more tricks up its sleeve?

Think again.

On Wednesday, speaking before a Veterans of Foreign Wars audience, President Bush did something he had previously avoided: He compared the Iraq war with the Vietnam War, agreeing that Vietnam does hold lessons for U.S. policy in Iraq.

Can't argue with that. For most Americans, the lessons of Vietnam were reasonably clear before we invaded Iraq and have been painfully reinforced by the ongoing disaster there:

Don't fight needless wars; don't go blundering around in countries where you don't know the language, history or culture; don't underestimate the power of nationalism, ethnicity and religion to bind together -- or tear apart -- people whose interests otherwise seem to diverge or converge; and, most of all, don't imagine that military force can solve fundamentally political problems.

But the president, who has his own very special set of history books, drew the public's attention to some entirely different lessons from Vietnam. To Bush, the "unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens."

Right! To Bush, the tragedy of the Vietnam War is that we didn't let it drag on for another decade or so.

'This is where the Jewish people are at'

It's weird watching the tides of content interest on the Web. For almost two months, a link I posted about the origin of UCLA's Undie Run as part of a comment on LAist.com got almost no clicks. In the past two days got more than 70.

Similarly, the discussion of my Q&A with The Forward on the paper's Website only had three comments the first week it was up. But yesterday there was a flurry of back and forth. This reaction from yehudis particularly caught my attention:
I actually cried reading this interview. This is where the Jewish people are at right now, and it is a very sad story from any angle you examine it.
When I write in birthday cards to my mom, I enjoy moving her to the point of tears (usually of joy). But I can't boast the same about yehudis' sentiment, which I think is related to this recent dialogue on Jewcy.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Everybody into the bomb shelter!


The most interesting part of my trip to Israel two weeks ago was not my meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, but having Shabbat dinner with the Bar-On family, a household of kibbutzniks living along the Gaza border.

Daily life in the western Negev region within the range of Qassam rockets is filled with nonstop unease. Five minutes after I arrived for dinner at Kibbutz Nir-Am, a PA sounded the "tveza adom" warning of incoming fire. In Sderot they have 15 seconds to take cover, which I had the enjoyment (!) of doing twice the day before, but on Nir-Am they are that much closer to Gaza and have only six to seven seconds. It didn't matter for me, though. I missed the warning.


A single rocket attack, or even two back to back, is no big deal for people living in the western Negev. For the past six years they have been getting shelled; in late May attacks escalated and during two weeks they were hit by 293 Qassams.


This was the most interesting story I came back from Israel with, and it's
this week's cover for The Jewish Journal.
The Bar-On's front door leads into what used to be the veranda, but, thanks to the addition of two mostly windowed walls, is now the living room. The ceiling is rich cherry oak and the floor smooth brick. This is where Mayan and Gabi sit on plump, blue leather couches and watch Nickelodeon, and from where they run when they hear the "color red" warning of an incoming rocket -- "tveza adom."

"If we're sitting in here with the air-conditioning on and the windows closed and the TV on, we can't hear the siren. What does it matter if we can hear it or not?" Marcell asks, growing exasperated. "What can we do? We're going to go where there are not windows, but we are still not protected."

For that reason, when the rocket attacks are heavy, like they were for the last two weeks of May, when 293 rockets were launched from Gaza after a six-month cease-fire broke down, the Bar-Ons often sleep on the concrete floor of a communal bomb shelter about 50 meters from their house.

"I like this one because it is underground," Marcell says, walking down the stairs in the dark. "It's something extra. It's really, really safe."

"Ooh, it smells terrible," she says, before flipping the light switch and revealing a red picnic bench, tile floor and wine cellar décor. About 15 feet by 20 feet, the room is stuffed with upwards of a dozen people on busy nights.

Fortunately, the previous few weeks have been "quiet." Marcell uses that term several times and usually follows it with a grimace, as if the Sderot region has been experiencing the calm before the storm.

Quiet, anyway, doesn't mean silent. It still means three to four Qassams coming their direction each day.

Last month, Uzi and Marcell saw one of the rockets fly above them as they swam in the pool after dinner.

"We knew that Gabi was playing soccer and that Mayan was in bed. We were totally helpless in the middle of the pool, and we saw this bomb fly right over our heads," Marcell recalls. "We jumped out of the pool to see where Gabi was, to see if he was still alive."

He was. But the rocket tore off a room in an elderly couple's home. That direct hit followed the Qassam that landed on the kibbutz restaurant, Fauna, and burned the structure to the foundation, which followed the bomb that tore through one of the dorms rented to students at Sapir College. Amazingly, each time, no one was hurt.

"We have," Marcell adds, "so many stories like that ...."

Why then, you ask -- everyone asks -- does anyone stay here?


Some stay because they are committed to the land, which is inside the Green Line of 1948 Israel. Others because they don't want to be bullied by Palestinian terrorists. But many remain because, as Marcell Bar-On puts it, of "a lack of choice."


If you could choose, would you stay in the area around Sderot?

My take on Mark Lilla's 'Stilborn God'


Mark Lilla's cover story for last Sunday's New York Times Magazine is not the most thrilling essay I've read in the past month, but it is probably the most relevant to the world we are living in. Adapted from his to-be-published book "The Stillborn God," Lilla addresses an important issue that underscores the limited effectiveness of "liberal" Islam:
What they mean is an Islam more adapted to the demands of modern life, kinder in its treatment of women and children, more tolerant of other faiths, more open to dissent. These are brave people who have often suffered for their efforts, in prison or exile, as did their predecessors in the 19th century, of which there were many. But now as then, their efforts have been swept away by deeper theological currents they cannot master and perhaps do not even understand. The history of Protestant and Jewish liberal theology reveals the problem: the more a biblical faith is trimmed to fit the demands of the moment, the fewer reasons it gives believers for holding on to that faith in troubled times, when self-appointed guardians of theological purity offer more radical hope.
The article details how the West got to where it is today, with its societies divided between the secular and the devout:
Liberal theology had begun in hope that the moral truths of biblical faith might be intellectually reconciled with, and not just accommodated to, the realities of modern political life. Yet the liberal deity turned out to be a stillborn God, unable to inspire genuine conviction among a younger generation seeking ultimate truth. For what did the new Protestantism offer the soul of one seeking union with his creator? It prescribed a catechism of moral commonplaces and historical optimism about bourgeois life, spiced with deep pessimism about the possibility of altering that life. It preached good citizenship and national pride, economic good sense and the proper length of a gentleman’s beard. But it was too ashamed to proclaim the message found on every page of the Gospels: that you must change your life. And what did the new Judaism bring to a young Jew seeking a connection with the traditional faith of his people? It taught him to appreciate the ethical message at the core of all biblical faith and passed over in genteel silence the fearsome God of the prophets, his covenant with the Jewish people and the demanding laws he gave them. Above all, it taught a young Jew that his first obligation was to seek common ground with Christianity and find acceptance in the one nation, Germany, whose highest cultural ideals matched those of Judaism, properly understood. To the decisive questions — “Why be a Christian?” and “Why be a Jew?” — liberal theology offered no answer at all.
Such vapidness laid the foundation for modern religiosity among those in the West who want religion more intertwined with politics. Christopher Hitchens, one of The New Atheists, critiques the piece in a Slate article titled "Mark Lilla doesn't give us enough credit for shaking off the God myth."

Question. What is a bigger threat to Western-style democracy: religious extremism or extreme secularism?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bringing banking in line with Islamic law

That's the duty of John Weguelin, the managing director of European Islamic Investment Bank. The long-awaited second issue of Portfolio (that's another story) has a short profile on the dapper Londoner. But after reading that Weguelin's bank is in accordance with sharia, my only question was: huh?
(F)or a clear sign of what makes E.I.I.B. different, just turn to the bank’s first annual report, in which briefings from the chairman and company secretary open with “In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful” and calculations of shareholders’ zakah, an annual charitable donation required of all Muslims, are supplied. The cornerstone of the bank’s Islamic nature lies in its transactions and ventures, which are guarded by its Sharia Board—four Islamic scholars who vet funds and deals to make sure they don’t contravene Koranic bans on earning interest and making profit from alcohol, pork, or unethical activities.
That makes sense. But can they employ a Sharia Goy to do the unholy business?

Accused pedophile allegedly faked his death

GREAT FALLS, Mont. - A former youth pastor accused of sexually assaulting a child in Texas was tracked down living here Tuesday, six months after he allegedly faked his own death.

Kevin Othell Laferney, 40, is wanted in Upshur County, Texas, on four counts each of aggravated sexual assault of a child and bail jumping.

According to the U.S. Marshals Service, he faked his death in February and disappeared before he was scheduled to appear in court.
Great Falls police and U.S. Marshals deputies arrested Laferney without incident at about 5 p.m. Tuesday when authorities knocked on the door of his apartment.

That's from AP, via DMN religion blog.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

'God's Jewish Warriors'

"Whether Muslim, Christian or Jew, millions of people view the world through a religious prism. They want God back in their daily life, back to the seat of power." That's how Christiane Amanpour opened the widely promoted CNN special "God's Warriors."

The first installment of three was on God's Jewish warriors, and opened in Hebron, the city of the patriarchs in the West Bank. GetReligion.org has the play-by-play.

I've just reached the 30-minute mark and found little to offer color commentary on. So far, the report has been a primer on the meaning of the Six-Day and Yom Kippur wars on religious Jews who believe that the land seized from Arabs in 1967, biblically known as Judea and Samaria, were promised them by God.

This comment, from a Jewish settler and veteran of the '67 war, caught my attention: "Those who believe in peace with the Palestinians is pure mysticism."

Me and Christianity Today's quote of the day

I began freelancing for Christianity Today two years ago after news director Ted Olsen read an article I wrote about a pastor forgotten by his church and Olsen responded with this post on the widely read Weblog he writes for the magazine.

Today, I made it onto Ted's blog as a newsmake, sort of. He liked my interview with The Forward, particularly this line -- "This is a thousands-year-old problem, the question of who is a Jew. I don't anticipate being the answer" -- which he deemed the quote of the day.

To a Muslim leader, Israel is 'Satan'

"God's Warriors" begins tonight on CNN. But on Saturday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (everyone's favorite) let us know who he thinks is Satan's warrior: "The Zionist regime is the standard bearer of invasion, occupation and Satan."

In honor of Ahmadinejad's statement, Slate posted a two-year-old explanation of what the Muslim Satan is like.

What does he look like? Muslims don't have a clear iconography for Iblis, and there's no Shaitanic counterpart to the red-skinned, pitchfork-wielding demon of Christianity. During the hajj, Shaitan is represented by a featureless stone pillar or wall. Pilgrims "stone Satan" by throwing rocks at the wall.

In Iran, where the Ayatollah Khomeini first dubbed the United States "the Great Satan" in the late 1970s, the words might evoke the divs, or devils, of Persian mythology. These were often depicted as gnarly-looking creatures with horns, dark skin, and protruding teeth. (Ancient literature describes the invasion of Persia by a particularly nasty monster called the White Div.) Posters from the Iranian revolution sometimes depicted Jimmy Carter or Uncle Sam in a demonic guise. In this one, a figure representing Israel and America stands over the shah, who is intertwined with a serpent.

'World's newest slacker religion? Dudeism'


Hailed as the "fastest-growing religion in the world" -- not confident in the accuracy of that statement -- Dudeism has a homepage and a mascot. ("Yeah, I've got a rash, man.")
The idea is this: Life is short and complicated and nobody knows what to do about it. So don't do anything about it. Just take it easy, man. Stop worrying so much whether you'll make it into the finals. Kick back with some friends and some oat soda and whether you roll strikes or gutters, do your best to be true to yourself and others - that is to say, abide.
Courtesy of the Bible Belt Blogger who points out this line from Duderonomy 5: "Respect everyone's point of view. It's just, like, their opinion, man."

Stephen Prothero would disagree.

'Go to church, goy'

There haven't been many published comments on The Forward's Web site about the paper's Q&A with me. But this one from a Brett Greenberg caught my eye:
very lame indeed. do we really need to give this christian more of a profile then he already has. he is not and has never been a jew. go to church goy.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Michael Bloomberg's religion problem

It seems like most the candidates in the '08 race are having a crisis of faith on the campaign trail. But keep in mind that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has not declared his candidacy for president. Yet. Then, read Jacques Berlinerblau's assessment of why Bloomberg would fair poorly among the Party of God (no, not that party of God):

If values voters really do exist, the very competent, very capable, Michael Bloomberg is going to have the darnedest time winning them over. All mayors of the ultra multi-cultural Five Boroughs must learn how to speak a discourse of pluralism and tolerance. This Bloomberg can do solidly, though not spectacularly. But he appears very uncomfortable--John Kerry uncomfortable--speaking about his own religious convictions. I, along with many of his other constituents, had always attributed his reluctant and maladroit God Talk to the fact that he was a nonbeliever--an unremarkable identity in America’s greatest city.

I had assumed this until Bloomberg recently described himself as “short, Jewish divorced billionaire.” This was about as explicit a profession of faith as New Yorkers have heard from their unsentimental leader. Some Jews were surprised (though not necessarily upset) to hear Bloomberg publicly refer to his religion. Mindful of option “(a)” above, Opposition Research teams across America have surely taken note of what could be spun as a self-serving “conversion.”

Mr. Bloomberg is affiliated with Reform Judaism and this too augurs badly for his candidacy. Let us assume that he is deeply committed to his faith. Let us even assume that while he was skillfully micromanaging the City’s recent upswing, he secretly received his rabbinic training and ordination at Hebrew Union College on Broadway and West Fourth Street. My surmise is that even if this were the case, Rabbi Bloomberg would still fair poorly in the Red States. This is because Reform is an example of the type of secularized religion I have been discussing in previous posts. With its emphasis on human agency and social justice, it is nowhere near as obsessed with the role of the divine in everyday life as are certain varieties of conservative Protestantism. Highly educated, affluent and at peace with modernity, they resemble, in many ways, the small but influential class of urban-dwelling non-believers. A Reform Jewish candidate stumping among, let’s say, Evangelical Christians might be construed by them as a Unitarian, a secular humanist or even an atheist.

Is it still adultery if ...

In this week's Forward, Rabbi Richard Address says we need "to reinterpret the concept of adultery." A surprising statement, particularly when you consider that Address is director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns.

Here's the scenario from which he argues that religious leaders need to decide whether medical advancements that keep people alive long past their ability to fully function change the rules of the game:

Take, for example, the dilemma of a healthy spouse — let’s call her Sarah — caring for her husband, who is restricted to an Alzheimer’s facility. Sarah must deal with the extended institutionalization of her spouse. She cares for him with love and dignity, but also feels that he is not really her spouse.

How does Sarah handle the reality that, while on a brief respite from the demands of care giving, she met someone with whom she became friendly and intimate? She cannot discuss this with her children, or even with her circle of friends.

So Sarah asks her rabbi, “Tell me, rabbi, am I doing something wrong? I love and care for my husband. But I am a healthy 70-year-old woman, who goes to work, enjoys life and has needs. Is it wrong? Am I supposed to just put my needs on hold?”

Such a scenario is not at all fiction. I have heard versions of this story over and over again, across the country.

These real-life situations should prompt us to reinterpret the concept of adultery.

Any takers?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

NYT Magazine: 'Politics of God'


The cover story for today's New York Times Magazine is about the power of political theology outside of the West. It's adapted by Mark Lilla from his book, "The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West."

Though likely not wholly agreeable, I'm sure it's a good read. I unfortunately won't have time to read and offer my perspective on the article today, but will do so tomorrow.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Billy Graham's diabolical side


Look at the placement of Billy Graham's head in front of the "M" in TIME and tell me: is it just coincidence, or did the editors of Time magazine intend for the design of last week's cover to give the influential evangelist horns?

Coincidence, I'd say.

"Some Internet bloggers," the Charlotte Observer reports, "see something else."
A devilish plot. They're accusing Time -- some seriously, some tongue-in-cheek -- of putting horns on the Charlotte-born evangelist.

"Well, the left media continues its crusade of soft propaganda," wrote conservative blogger John Ruskin. "This time, the target is Rev. Billy Graham ... Yeah, tell me that was an innocent mistake."

(Hat tip: DMN religion blog)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Jew becomes 'radical Muslim' and falls back

The path to faith often takes unexpected twists. In the case of Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, the road went through three of the world's major religions -- Judaism, Islam and Christianity -- and ultimately brought him to the FBI.

Born to Jewish parents who call themselves mystics, he grew up in what he calls the "liberal hippie Mecca" of Ashland, Oregon, a town of about 20,000 near the California border. It was in this ultraliberal intellectual environment that a young Gartenstein-Ross experimented with a radical form of Islam that eventually led him to shun music, reject women's rights and even refuse to touch dogs because he believed this was "according to God's will."

"I began to pray for the mujahedeen, for these stateless warriors who were trying to topple secular governments," he said.

This is the opening of a profile posted at CNN.com to promote the three-part special 'God's Warriors.'

Thursday, August 16, 2007

'Funny,' The Forward says, 'Brad Greenberg Doesn't Look Christian'


I've been looking forward to this afternoon, for the moment when I would join the fold of recent Q&As on The Forward's Web site. I didn't get the Luke Ford treatment (not that I deserved it), but The Forward has posted that Q&A/profile with yours truly.

It's pretty odd to be on the opposite side of the looking glass. I was certain I would say something that would culminate with me packing my desk -- my wife is in PR, but I've had little media-training, except, of course, being a member of the MSM . But I think I survived.

Here's the article's lede, followed by three portions of the Q&A:
It’s not surprising that a major Jewish newspaper would have its own “God Blog.” One might be surprised, however, upon learning that a Jewish newspaper’s “God blogger” is a church-going Christian. And one certainly wouldn’t expect said Christian to have a last name that starts with “Green” and ends with “berg.”

...

You describe yourself on your blog as a “God-fearing Christian.” What does that mean?

To me that means that I’m somebody who believes in the Bible as the word of God and somebody who believes specifically in the divinity of Jesus and that Jesus was the Christ. It’s something I am upfront about because I don’t want it to be some kind of secret that comes out in forms of rumor or innuendo. I put it out there because I think it’s important that people know that this is what I believe, and that it’s no something that affects me as a journalist.

Has your background posed any unique challenges for you in covering the Jewish community?

I know that on it’s face it makes parts of the community queasy. If my name were “Mitch Hennigan,” it wouldn’t really be an issue. But everybody assumes that if my name’s “Greenberg” and I’m Christian, I must have converted out, which isn’t the case. When I started this job, everybody I talked to was like, “So, are you a Jew for Jesus?” And I was very clear: No, I’m not involved in Jews for Jesus. No, they have not slipped a mole into the Jewish Journal. I don’t have a special calling to baptize all of “those pagan Jews.” I think when people understand who I am, when they see the sensitivity of my reporting, and the fact that I am just a really curious journalist who does care about this community and is interested in the stories that are affecting it, I think it breaks down those walls.

You’re halachically Jewish. When Jews find out that you’re a practicing Christian, do they ever try to bring you “back to the fold”?

I think that may be subtly going on. It hasn’t been anything that overt. I’m sure that a lot of people think that because I’m at the Jewish Journal, I think there is a perception that I’m here because I want to return to the community. And in ways I want to be able to identify with the community. I’m kind of struggling with how that can be done, how I can be Jewish while not adhering to the religion. But this is a thousands-year-old problem, the question of who is a Jew. I don’t anticipate being the answer.

Read the rest here.

Bishop: Christians should call God 'Allah'


AP courtesy of the WP:

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- A Dutch Catholic bishop who once said the hungry were entitled to steal bread and advocated condom use to prevent AIDS has made headlines again, this time by saying God should be called Allah.

"Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will call God Allah?" Bishop Tiny Muskens said in an interview broadcast this week. "God doesn't care what we call him."

This reminds me of a debate in the Presbyterian Church USA denomination last summer on the names by which we should call God. A committee report -- they'll form one to discuss putting in a new water fountain -- came up with these acceptable nicknames for the Father, Son and Holy Ghost:

  • Sun, Light and Burning Ray
  • Compassionate Mother, Beloved Child and Life-giving Womb
  • Giver, Gift and Giving
  • Rainbow of Promise, Ark of Salvation, and Dove of Peace
  • Lover, Beloved and the Love, and Binds Together Lover and Beloved
  • Overflowing Font, Living Water, Flowing River
  • One From Whom, the One Through Whom, and the One in Whom We Offer Our Praise
  • Rock, Cornerstone and Temple
  • Fire That Consumes, Sword That Divides, and Storm that Melts Mountains

To which my pastor, the Rev. Mark Brewer of Bel Air Presbyterian, a church largely out of sync with the more liberal denomination, quipped: "“You might as well put in Huey, Dewey and Louie.”

When the Episcopal schism comes between brothers


GetReligion points out "one of the most poignant feature stories about the Episcopal Church’s sexuality debate that I have seen in more than 15 years of writing about the topic." It's from the Boston Globe, written by their religion reporter, Michael Paulson, who shares a Pulitzer for his work helping uncover the Catholic clergy sex scandal.
The Murdoch brothers don't often talk about the controversy dividing the Episcopal Church, but they really don't have to: In the Murdoch family, schism starts at home.

The Rev. Bill Murdoch, 58, [pictured right] an Episcopal priest in West Newbury, is so frustrated by the Episcopal Church's selection of an openly gay bishop that he is bolting and taking his parish with him. At the end of this month, he is to be consecrated a bishop by the Anglican Church of Kenya, and he will return to the North Shore to start a new Kenya-affiliated parish there.

But the Rev. Brian Murdoch, 53, [left] an Episcopal priest in West Roxbury, is not planning to join his brother for the ceremony in Nairobi and is not celebrating his elevation to bishop.

That's because Brian, as Bill has long known, is gay.

(skip)

"My brother and I love each other and always will," [Bill] said by e-mail. "My family and I love Brian and have always been proud of his service to others for the sake of the Gospel and the many, many people Brian has loved in the name of Christ. The pain of our disagreement over this issue will not change my love for him."
(Photo: Globe)