Truly senseless acts make for poor sloganeering. Jared Lee Loughner, the gunman who killed six people at a Tucson congressional town meeting, while gravely wounding his apparent target, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, seems to have been not at all working from any traditional set of motivations. His now-infamous cache of YouTube videos throws around theories of a new currency and the illegitimate seizure of private property, together with a barely intelligible discussion of himself as a terrorist. He also announced plans to introduce a new number and letter to the alphabet, both represented as bursts of incoherent scribbling—a fair depiction, it seems, of the thought process involved in producing [...]
About a year ago, a friend from Utah called to tell me that he was gay. I'll call him James, though that's absolutely not his real name. This would have been March or April, about six months after Prop 8 passed. We spent two hours on the phone that night, and several more over the next few weeks. He'd talked about it on some anonymous online forums, and even been on one or two tentative dates, but I was otherwise the first person that he told. I wonder now if he chose me because he could call from two thousand miles away: if I were to reject him, at [...]
The founder of the International Association of Exorcists (I know) has come up with a theory about why bishops and priests just can't stop molesting children. It's Satan! Also "cardinals who do not believe in Jesus, and bishops who are linked to the Demon." There is Satan there too. He also noted that Satan "makes fun of me."
On a Sunday last fall, I was working downstairs with the space heater on and the office doors closed when the phone rang. The caller ID read DAN KOIS, which meant that it was my wife, upstairs, calling our home phone from my cell phone. As is often the case on weekends, we were trading carefully-negotiated Work Periods. I was writing while she looked after the children; later, I would take the kids while she worked. Later still, we would maybe eat dinner together and then put the kids in the bath.
I answered the phone. In the background I could hear crying. Alia said, "You have to come [...]
New Zealand Church Billboard Provokes Uncomfortable Questions (Like, "Is God Good At Cunnilingus?" "Does He Like It Rough?" "Does He Ask For A Finger Up His Ass?" Etc.)
Progressive Christianity doesn't overlook Jesus' life and rush to his death. Rather it sees the radical hospitality he offered to the poor, the despised, women, children, and the sick, and says: 'this is the essence of God'. His death was a consequence of the offensive nature of that hospitality and his resurrection a symbolic vindication. The Christmas billboard outside St Matthew-in-the-City lampoons literalism and invites people to think again about what a miracle is. Is the miracle a male God sending forth his divine sperm, or is the miracle that God is and always has been among the poor?
American piety, like our other established social habits, is supposed to follow a simple call-and-response pattern, depending on the overall condition of our market order. When plenitude abounds, we don't give much thought to last things, and overall religious observance declines; conversely, when times are tough, we're supposed to throng into the pews, imploring the Creator to straighten out our suboptimal economic prospects, and to revive our faith in the American gospel of success.
Such, at any rate, is the breathless assessment in Newsweek, which has long had a bland-yet-insatiable fascination with all things Jesus-y.
From the introduction to The Penguin Dictionary of Saints, Third Edition: "The English word 'saint' is derived from the Latin epithet sanctus, which represents the Greek hagios and the Hebrew qÃ¢dosh … When applied to people and things [these words] meant hallowed, consecrated, set apart … they did not of themselves necessarily connote that high moral quality which is now inseparable from such words."
Vexed French bishops are expressing their displeasure against a confessional service "set up at the beginning of the Christian fasting period of Lent by Paris-based telephone messaging service AABAS" for the benefit of penitents who are too busy to get themselves to a church. The Daily Mail reports that the clerics reject Phoneline to the Lord as "utterly unacceptable," noting the sacramental value of parishioner-to-priest contact. The phoneline "charges users 30p a minute to confess their sins to an automated answering machine," which sounds to me about as good a description of God as you're likely to get.
UPDATE: Awl pal Juli Weiner did some real reporting and [...]
In These Troubled Times, many Americans are seeking financial wisdom from an unlikely source: the Bible.
All sound professional advice, I found, … has its roots someplace in Scripture," said Ron Blue, author of "Surviving Financial Meltdown" and founder of the Kingdom Advisors, which trains Christian financial professionals. Blue uses the Bible for guidance on everything from budgeting to long-term investing and handling an inheritance.
Some experts, however, are unconvinced.
I saw one of these bus ads on my way over to the Awl offices this morning, and I have to tell, you, I was a little underwhelmed. I mean, as an atheist I'm all for anything that helps further the cause or at least increases understanding between rational thinkers and Godites, but is this really the most effective way to go about it? Who is going to get excited enough to change their preconceptions with this dry and unappealing message? How about something like, "Illicit blowjobs feel even better without the nagging religious guilt," or "You want to spend an hour of your life listening to some guy [...]
Have you heard about Alberto CutiÃƒÂ©? The hottie Hispanic holy man was recently photographed "kissing and caressing a bikinied brunette on a Florida beach." The photos, which show the sultry spiritual leader with "his right hand in the unnamed brunette's bikini bottom" have rocked the Spanish-speaking community; not just in his Miami Beach parish, but throughout Latin America. (CutiÃƒÂ© is so popular for his radio and television work that he is known as "Father Oprah.")
University of Toronto sociologist Scott Schieman suggests that higher economic status does not necessarily preclude a belief in God, particularly among those who regularly participate in religious activities, but that "a close association between conservative, reactionary politics and religion is driving better educated Americans away from church," a phenomenon he dubs "the Sarah Palin effect." [Via]
"Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against thee in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. For the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us, because we'll probably do it again tomorrow."
Lent is tough for a teenager. From the pulpit, your pastor encourages you to give until it hurts, reminding the congregation in booming tones that no sacrifice is too small or too noble. After mass he says to you, "Jesus subsisted in the desert for 40 days off pure grace," his hand resting on your shoulder, light as a cinder block. Inspired (or [...]
Ross Douthat goes after what he calls "Hollywood's religion of choice" in the Times today: "Avatar is [James] Cameron's long apologia for pantheism-a faith that equates God with Nature, and calls humanity into religious communion with the natural world." Describing pantheism as "a form of religion that even atheists can support," he argues that it doesn't offer humans the "escape upward" into immortality that he believes is the reason religion exists.