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Blog Archive/March 2006

March 29, 2006

Flick Me? Flick You!

It’s no secret that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has a temper and a mouth. But who among us expected this UPI headline on Monday: “Justice Scalia flips the finger in church”? Losing his cool on the highest bench, sure. But in church, just minutes after receiving communion? Not this man of faith!

On Sunday, Scalia attended a special mass for politicians and lawyers in Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross. A reporter asked if he faces questions over impartiality when it comes to matters of church and state. "You know what I say to those people?" the 70-year-old Roman Catholic replied, and then flicked his hand under his chin. "That's Sicilian."

Calling the gesture “obscene” and Scalia’s conduct “unbecoming a 20-year veteran of the country’s highest court,” the conservative Boston Herald noted that the incident happened “just feet from the Mother Church’s altar.” A photographer from the Pilot, the Archdiocese of Boston's newspaper, caught the moment on film. "Don't publish that," Scalia told him. The Herald also found Scalia’s remark inappropriate, given that “one of his sworn duties is to uphold the freedom of the press.”...

Continue reading "The Hand of Justice"

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 22, 2006

Evangelicals for Separation of Church and State?

In his book "The Myth of Separation," Christian conservative David Barton argues that the Founders didn’t support separation of church and state. He insists that this was a Christian nation founded by Christian men who very much wanted the government to support religion. However convenient that claim may be, it ignores the views of our country’s first evangelicals.

“Indeed,” writes Steve Waldman, “the one group that would almost certainly oppose the views of 21st-century evangelicals are 18th-century evangelicals… In state after state, when colonists and Americans met to debate the relationship between God and government, it was the proto-evangelicals who pushed the more radical view that church and state should be kept far apart.”

“It was 18th-century evangelicals who provided the political shock troops for Jefferson and Madison in their efforts to keep government from strong involvement with religion,” writes Waldman. “Modern evangelicals are certainly free to take a different course, but they should realize that in doing so they have dramatically departed from the tradition of their spiritual forefathers…”

Read Steve Waldman’s essay, “Does God Want a Wall Between Church and State,” here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 21, 2006

Free of Charge

There are good books, there are great books, and then there are books that make you want to send copies to all your friends and pass them out to strangers. Miroslav Volf's book is one of the few members of that last category...

Read Jason Byassee's review of "Free of Charge" here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 16, 2006

My Weird Science

I was 10 when I discovered I had the power of telepathy. I found if I concentrated hard enough, I could make my pastor pick his nose during his sermon. As pastor Jim went on about, say, how God dangles sinners like spiders over an open fire, I'd inflict a little torment myself. I'd grip the pew and stare at pastor Jim's nose, telegraphing the sensation that something resembling a dry cornflake was clinging inside his nostril. I watched the agony build in his expression, the sweat form on his brow. Finally, Pastor Jim would pop a thumb in his beak and dig, in front of the whole congregation. This was my doing. After all, I did it Sunday after Sunday...

Read my essay, "Superstition: The Faith We All Share," here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 14, 2006

Isaac Hayes Quits “South Park”

Isaac Hayes—the voice of Chef—has quit “South Park,” saying he can no longer take its satirical treatment of religion. “There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs and others begins,” he said in a statement yesterday.

“Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored,” he said, the AP reported. “As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices.”

Hayes apparently didn’t cite what upset him specifically about “South Park,” a show that has always satirized religion, but it must have been something recent, considering he’s been with the animated program for almost nine years.

In any case, Hayes’ comments raise a red flag for me. Why should people’s religious beliefs be respected and honored at all times? Who says? People have the right to believe whatever they want, and that right should be respected. But that doesn’t mean religious beliefs themselves deserve respect. We all have the freedom of religion, and from religion. And we all have the right, and some might say the responsibility, to criticize religion.

“South Park” co-creator Matt Stone responded to Hayes’ announcement, saying, “This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology… He has no problem—and he’s cashed plenty of checks—with our show making fun of Christians.”

The AP notes that Hayes is an outspoken Scientologist. Four months ago, “South Park” lampooned the Church of Scientology and its celebrity followers, including Tom Cruise and John Travolta. In the episode, one of the main fourth grade characters is “hailed as a reluctant savior by Scientology leaders, while a cartoon Cruise locks himself in a closet and won’t come out.”

Stone said that he and co-creator Trey Parker “never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin.”

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 9, 2006

The Crusades, Then and Now

While in Brazil for the World Council of Churches, I did what I always do in foreign countries—visited as many churches as possible. Normally these are places of quiet dignity, which make me grateful for the people’s prayers and the priest’s work going on there. At Nossa Senhora do Rosário in Porto Alegre, however, I was hit flush in the face with a vision I still can’t shake.

It was a gigantic mural, well-over 100 feet long and a good 50 feet wide, which covered the entire ceiling of a not-insignificantly sized church and literally provided the image of heaven for the worshippers below.

And what was heaven? A navy battle in the Crusades...

Read Jason Byassee's essay, "Holy War," here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 7, 2006

Caring for Creation

A group of Christians has issued “Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action,” a statement signed by 86 church leaders, including Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose-Driven Life,” Duane Litfin, President of Wheaton College, and Todd Bassett, National Commander of the Salvation Army.

Some view this statement by members of the Evangelical Climate Initiative as hope that Christians might finally stop debating the reality of global warming and start addressing it. After all, this group of evangelical heavyweights isn’t easy to ignore. But, as J. Matthew Sleeth writes, neither were the 1,600 leading scientists, including the majority of living Nobel laureates, who in 1992 signed “The World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” a warning that “accurately predicted the magnitude of global warming, species extinction, and destruction of the earth’s complex ecosystems. Their words went largely unheard and unheeded.”

What could make the difference now? Read Sleeth’s “Will Christians Help Save the Planet?” here.    

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 3, 2006

The Message of "Brokeback Mountain"?

My husband and I finally saw “Brokeback Mountain” last weekend. I had been avoiding it primarily because I knew it would make me terribly sad. I am quite susceptible to tragic romances; I've wept over “Titanic,” fretted over “Romeo and Juliet,” pined for Sydney Carton and his valiant sacrificial love. I had read enough about “Brokeback Mountain” to know that despite the politicized hysteria surrounding it, the film is a story about love and heartbreak, with a greater emphasis on heartbreak. It channels the familiar pain of lovers separated; the story of Ennis and Jack is the most recent chapter in the ongoing literary tradition of ill-fated love.

The other reason why I avoided seeing it is because I knew I wouldn't be able to drown out the hoopla surrounding the movie...

Read Katherine E. Willis Pershey's "The Real Heartbreak About 'Brokeback'” here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

March 2, 2006

Out of the Closet (Sort of) in Time for the Oscars

In the past, I have not been open with my friends about watching the Oscars. After all, they already know I don’t watch the Super Bowl, and well, liking the Oscars—and especially those outfits parading down the red carpet!... Well, let’s just say I didn’t want anyone to draw any unnecessary conclusions about my lifestyle.

I happen to be gay. But not in the way you think. I don’t go for guys. I just like gay things. This revelation occurred to me one night when I was standing on the porch of my house, staring at the only star visible in the Southern California sky and trying to remember what play won the Tony last year. That was when it hit me: I’m gay! It didn’t matter that men did not sexually arouse me—in fact the thought didn’t even cross my mind when I announced my gayhood to my newly liberated soul. I simply felt free at last, to care about the Tonys and the Oscars, or the latest episode of “Desperate Housewives,” or how to knit myself a pair of socks...

Read Scott La Counte's hilarious essay, "I'll Be Having a Gay Old Time Watching the Oscars," here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

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