Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Everyone expects the Brownback inquisition!

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) has induced seizures in theocon watchdogs for claiming in a letter to Catholic parishioners that five Catholic members of the Senate who are pro-choice are not really Catholic.

"These liberals siphon off huge chunks of 'values voters' who are tricked into sending, 'abortion-on-demand' politicians to represent them in Washington, DC.," writes Brownback. "Real Catholics need a new voice — not the likes of Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi who have campaigned as Catholics while voting to undermine the values that we hold most dear."

"It is unusual, and perhaps unprecedented in modern times, for one senator to question the religious practices of another," writes Joe Feuerherd, of the National Catholic Reporter, who broke the news.

The NCR also reports that Brownback's office denies he has anything to do with the letter. "Our chief of staff ... had never seen, heard of, or approved it," said Brownback spokesperson, Brian Hart.

But the Damon Linker of the New Republic is skeptical. "[T]he fact is that given Brownback's longstanding support for the theocon approach to waging the culture war, there is no way for him to reject the contents of the letter on principle. He simply wants the inquisition to be conducted on someone else's letterhead."

Linker believes this is the fulfillment of a theocon dream:
Now it isn't just theocon writers (and the occasional bishop) who will act as inquisitors of Catholic Democrats but also their colleagues on Capitol Hill. That's what happens when political ideology and theological orthodoxy are brought into perfect alignment, which is what the theocons have been after for years.
Politicians as arbitrators of orthodoxy. This isn't new, is it?

The Bible's stimulus plan?

Judith Levine reflects on the over-rated virtue of thrift in Salon today. She concludes with these words from the New Testament:
You can’t take it with you. That's what St. Paul told Timothy before warning him that the love of money was the root of all evil: "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." What lesson does the recession teach? Live now. Be merry. For tomorrow we -- or the stock market bull -- may die.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Economy dives, evangelicalism thrives

A surprising (or is it?) consequence of hard-times:
Bad times are boon times for evangelical churches. Economist David Beckworth of Texas State University has crunched U.S. church attendance numbers and found that congregation growth at evangelical churches jumped 50 percent during each recession between 1968 and 2004.

Sullivan: Americans take the question of God seriously

Andrew Sullivan, a native Brit, on why he has chosen to make America home:

In America, the bigotry you face is real, unvarnished and in the open. In Britain, it can come masked or euphemised or deflected into humour. It hurts much more to punch a brick wall than to punch a deep velvet cushion. But if you punch hard enough, the wall will one day crumble, while the pillow will constantly absorb the blows.

There is plenty of religious bigotry and fundamentalist rigidity and crude sectarianism in America. But there is also a clear and invigorating religious energy that takes the question of God seriously and does not recoil from it in apathy or world-weariness. Give me a fundamentalist to argue with any day over someone who has lost the will to care that much at all.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Martha Stewart was introducing her show on pot when Channel 4 interrupted with a Special Report: the Vatican has appointed a new cardinal.

This is how Gawker reports the news (stunt?):
Martha Stewart's show today was all about pot! Pot pot pot! Jimmy Fallon was there, and he talked about pot! But right in the middle of the winky-drug jokes GOD INTERVENED.
The 45 seconds of Gawker video is worth seeing if for no other reason that for the opportunity to enjoy the parallels with this Monty Python classic:

Bring on boozy Sundays

Churches are resistant to lifting bans on purchasing alcohol, reports Time.

Obama more popular than Jesus, Bush more popular than God

...according to a new Harris poll.

Here is how American's now rank the people (and gods) they most admire:
1. Barack Obama
2. Jesus Christ
3. Martin Luther King
4. Ronald Reagan
5. George W. Bush
6. Abraham Lincoln
7. John McCain
8. John F. Kennedy
9. Chesley Sullenberger
10. Mother Teresa
11. God
12. Hillary Clinton

I think we can all agree that this is more cocktail party chatter than actual news (what does it mean to be "the most admired"?), but it seems significant that in 2001, Jesus Christ was number one and Obama was not even on the radar. We are a fickle lot, aren't we?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Christian films are the big winner

Marriage and taxes were the winning themes at the 2009 San Antonio (Texas) Independent Christian Film Festival in January but the over all winner is the Christian film industry.

While the Academy swoons over the independent film Slumdog Millionaire, audiences have voted with their feet, preferring the troubled-marriage turn-around tale Fireproof. The highest-grossing independent film of 2008 was a film produced by a church in Albany, Ga., staffed mostly by volunteers and marketed to evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics through a network of pastors and influential laypersons.

And because the films offered to Christians by Christians remain off the media radar, they are celebrated off the radar too.

The Christian Film Festival's honors the film that best explains biblical creation, best portray's family values, and best promotional video. The 2008 Best of Film Festival went to The Widow's Might a story about taxation without justification.

Two friends dream of stardom with the Western film they are making together when they learn that an elderly widow will lose her home because of the high property taxes in her area. The friends, together with their family and friends, decide to fight the system. The film's website explains: "Through political smears, on set mishaps, and a wild western ride, these families band together in a classic black hat/white hat tale of heroism!"

Preview from John Moore on Vimeo

Hollywood has weakly responded to the grass roots demand. More than half of all releases included "positive Christian characters" last year, up from just 6% in 1991, according to the Christian Film & Television Commission, in Camarillo, Calif., reports the Wall Street Journal.

But Christians seem to prefer to sever ties with Hollywood:
"I don't think they'll ever get it," NPR quotes one of the festival's attendees. "They will try to mimic it, but you can't mimic Christ. They'll never get the love part. They'll never get the forgiveness. They don't get any of that because they don't think they need it."

This is precisely the "different kind of surge" that Andrew Breitbart called for last July: "Perhaps we can wage a different kind of culture war - and not one directed by armchair generals from church pews in Virginia. We need to break out of this mind-set and send our best young minds to Hollywood."