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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Best plane reading ever.

New York Review of MagazinesWhat did I read on the plane from Boston to Salt Lake City last week? (Mrs Philocrites and I were on our way to the General Assembly in Long Beach, with a visit to my family in Utah on the way.) Why, the perfect magazine for a magazine junkie like me: NYRM, the New York Review of Magazines.

Published by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, it revisits Lauren Popper, the Deaniac who was turned into the cover girl for the New York Times Magazine article about the social lives of Howard Dean activists. Also good: "Why We Still Love 'Sassy'"; an article on what the circulation trends of red-state vs. blue-state magazines show (you know, does the drop in National Review's circulation bode ill for the president?); a very funny memo on using the seven deadly sins as content guides; an article on Azizah, a magazine for Muslim women that Mrs Philocrites finds fascinating; "Sex Doesn't Sell," an article on the sexual reticence of gay magazines; "How the Tabloids Scoop the Big Boys"; and an answer to the question, "Wasn't the Guardian going to launch a U.S. magazine?"

But wait! That's not all. There's also a disturbing answer to the question, Should you buy magazines from young people who knock on your door with a clipboard? And, for those of us who put together magazine covers, a very helpful article about the process at Newsweek.

Of course, you can read all this and more on-line, but the print edition is charmingly designed and I for one can vouch for its enduring appeal on a long flight.

Posted by Philocrites, June 30, 2004, at 06:16 PM | 1 comments

Monday, June 28, 2004

Local press coverage.

The sixth-largest city in California could use a better newspaper. There are 5,000 Unitarian Universalists holding their annual convention in Long Beach, but the city newspaper's four-page religion section on Saturday included not a single word about it. (Nor, I might add, did the UUA have any advertising in the section announcing its public invitation to people in the area to attend the General Assembly's Sunday morning worship service.)

But the General Assembly did appear in Sunday's paper, under a photograph (not on-line) showing marchers with an "Uncommon Denomination" banner and another sign prominently displaying the name of the Long Beach church and its address. Here's the start of the story:

Hoping to shed light on the city's homelessness problem and skyrocketing housing costs, about 150 Unitarian Universalists from across the country joined with community leaders and about 450 parishioners from across the city Saturday to rally at the First Congregational Church for affordable housing, an organizer said.

"We want to call our attention to this great need we have in the whole of Long Beach,' said rally chairman Nelson Gonzalez of the Greater Long Beach Interfaith Community Organization. The city has estimated that about 6,000 people are homeless in Long Beach, and a recent study by the ICO, the Long Beach Community Action Network and the Fair Housing Foundation indicated that 1,622 motel rooms were occupied by homeless residents this past year.

The rally also included an announcement of a $20,000 donation by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach on Atherton Street to help start a new year- round homeless shelter operated by the ICO, said Unitarian Universalist Association spokesman John Hurley.

There's more . . .

("Churches rally for housing," David Rogers, Long Beach Press-Telegram 6.27.04, A3)

Posted by Philocrites, June 28, 2004, at 01:45 PM | 3 comments

Saturday, June 26, 2004

One thing you don't learn in seminary.

My fellow divinity school graduates, did you study real estate in seminary? Behold a cautionary tale:

It's called "gazumping" in England, the process by which someone selling a piece of property accepts an offer from one buyer, maybe even going so far as to shake hands on it, then quickly — and often surreptitiously — accepts another, higher, offer from a second buyer, leaving the first buyer with his pockets agape and his heart broken. Gazump is a glorious, full-bodied word, with a lusty feel in the mouth; the behavior it outlines, however, is anything but satisfying. . . .

Jane Praeger, a media trainer, and her husband, Terrence O'Brien, a theater director, made a play for an "as-is" apartment in a former parsonage on lower Park Avenue owned by the Community Church of New York Unitarian Universalist.

Theirs was one of multiple bids, but since their bid, of $1.64 million, came with no financial contingency, two of the four representatives of the church (can you see murky waters ahead?) accepted it. A few days later, another offer came from a potential buyer within the building, for $1.7 million. The broker representing the church, Julie Perlin of Stribling & Associates, recommended that the offer from the second buyer be accepted.

At the same time, she allowed Mr. O'Brien and Ms. Praeger continued access into the property for an architect's visit and informed their broker, Ms. Straubinger, that a higher bid had trumped theirs. A day later, they raised their offer to $1.66 million, only to learn that a fully executed contract had been made the previous day. The tale devolves at this point into a case of who said what at which point. Ms. Praeger and Ms. Straubinger state that their offer was rebuffed unfairly, because Ms. Perlin claimed she hadn't received their lawyer's information. Ms. Perlin will tell you that she made each bidder's information available, as she received it, to the church's representatives, who made their own decision to go with the higher bidder. What's confusing is that a number of individuals represented the church: two members of the congregation, the church's general counsel and others.

While the counsel, Paul M. Godlin of Opton, Handler & Feiler, averred that "the church is very happy with the sale," the two congregation members, according to one of them, Jo Ann Corkran, felt very uneasy.

"We had given our word to the first buyers, the Praeger-O'Briens," she said. "I'm not saying the extra $20,000 or $30,000 wasn't useful, but we're a church."

("The Golden Rule is taking a beating," Penelope Green, New York Times 6.27.04, reg req'd)

Posted by Philocrites, June 26, 2004, at 02:57 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Vacation! Work! Which?

This year, I'm bringing Mrs Philocrites to the UUA's General Assembly — although she's coming along strictly for the vacational aspects and has no plans to attend any GA events. GA is 14 hours of work a day for me, though, so it should be interesting seeing how we balance her lounging by the pool with my parsing of the Actions of Immediate Witness. All this is my way of saying that this week and next won't be active blog weeks. If you'll be at GA, drop me a note. It would be great to meet readers and fellow bloggers.

Posted by Philocrites, June 22, 2004, at 06:20 PM | 1 comments

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Bad idea!

The U.S. is returning sovereignty to Iraq at the end of the month — but the Boston Globe reports that the Republican Palace in Baghdad won't be part of the transfer:

The marble palace, which was home to three Iraqi presidents before Hussein, became the headquarters of the country's occupiers. And with 11 days left until Iraq regains sovereignty, the occupiers aren't packing to leave. They are converting the palace into part of the massive new US Embassy compound.

From Iraq's new president to the men who stand guard at the Martyrs' Monument to the country's war dead — itself taken over as a US base until last month — Iraqis are irritated at the prospect of US diplomats occupying their country's equivalent of the White House.

Yes, I'd think they would be! Can't we lease it for a year, buy some property elsewhere in the city, and build ourselves an embassy? I thought we weren't in this battle for the spoils.

Posted by Philocrites, June 19, 2004, at 09:10 AM | 1 comments

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Liberal hawks revisited, yet again.

The New Republic reexamines its support for the war to depose Saddam Hussein and asks, "Were we wrong?" The lead editorial says: "The central assumption underlying this magazine's strategic rationale for war now appears to have been wrong. . . . But, if our strategic rationale for war has collapsed, our moral one has not."

I was fairly sympathetic to the moral argument against Hussein — browse through my posts from January or February 2003 — but the timing seemed tragic. (So much could have been accomplished if the U.S. had stayed focused on Afghanistan and al Qaeda, including the not insignificant possibility that American liberals and American conservatives might have come to some new conclusions about the merits of intervention and nation-building. Oh, well! Back to our post-Vietnam corners.) Instead, America's credibility and capability to intervene in a just cause have been seriously damaged by Bush's conduct of the war.

Leon Wieseltier puts it succinctly: "Whatever the merits of preemption, there was nothing to preempt. It really is as plain as that." He goes on to say:

It is important to remember that freedom is not the same thing as democracy. When people are liberated, they become free to be what they already are. They almost never are already a democracy. Democracy is an elaborate structure of principles and institutions. It is built, not found. The liberation of Iraq is only a condition for the democratization of Iraq.

I don't feel especially encouraged about liberal democracy's chances in Iraq, because I haven't seen indications that anyone except the president's speech-writers gets it. Paul Berman laments the likely outcome for American politics (sub req'd):

I am dreading what some people claim already to have learned from the blunders in Iraq. Even now, some people are saying: You see! There's no point in overthrowing dictators by force! (Though many dictators have been forcibly overthrown, to good effect — from Germany to Afghanistan.) And no point in trying to do good for anyone else! (Though humanitarian intervention has had its successes, from Kosovo to East Timor, not to mention Kurdistan.)

The U.S. failure in Somalia led to a different kind of U.S. failure in Rwanda. There will surely be Rwandas in the future — there is one right now in Darfur, Sudan (where the ethnic cleansers come out of the same mix of radical Islamism and Arab nationalism that has caused so much suffering in many other places, including our own places). Who in his right mind is going to call for U.S. intervention? Doubtless, in the future, when things are not so grim for us, some people will, in fact, call for U.S. interventions, and justly so. And yet, other people are going to say, Oh, right, and let's put Donald Rumsfeld in charge. And this will be a devastating reply.

There's more. Lots more. The magazine's full of introspection and what-ifs. Non-subscribers can read Thomas L. Friedman (still hopeful), Kenneth Pollack (who wrote the book on going after Saddam), and Fareed Zakaria. Subscribers like me can read Fouad Ajami, Anne Applebaum, Peter Beinart, Joe Biden, John McCain, and Michael Rubin, too. (I think I'll wait for my copy to come in the mail. That's a lot of reassessment to do on a Thursday evening.)

Posted by Philocrites, June 17, 2004, at 07:35 PM | 0 comments

Philocrites in the pulpit.

An announcement for readers in the Greater Boston area: I'm the guest preacher at the First Unitarian Universalist Society in Middleborough this coming Sunday at 10:30. My sermon is entitled "Moral Imagination." I've been told there will be a strawberry festival after the service to welcome Tricia Tummino, the congregation's minister, back from her sabbatical, so the jubilation won't be entirely due to the quality of my sermon . . . ;)

Posted by Philocrites, June 17, 2004, at 06:01 PM | 1 comments

Dear Uncle Sam: I'm watching you, too!

This site's first visit from someone in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security occurred this afternoon at 13:16:50, IP address, host name I figure it was just some lunch break Web browsing, but you never know. [Ominous music here . . .]

Posted by Philocrites, June 17, 2004, at 05:35 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

'Yes, we're all individuals.'

The uncharitably sectarian Agape Press reported on June 1 that "Texas officials have reversed an earlier decision denying tax-exempt status to a controversial religious cult in that state." ("Cult" in this case refers to us Unitarian Universalists. Who knew!) Rivka, whose prominent blog Respectful of Otters is a UU blog I've somehow missed, examines the evangelical and fundamentalist arguments about the cultishness of my liberal faith tradition.

Meanwhile, Stentor Danielson, thoughtful as always at Debitage, wonders why very conservative Christians accuse Unitarian Universalism of being a cult while simultaneously criticizing it for lacking cultic features. (We aren't exactly dogmatic, we don't subordinate the individual to the group, and we're certainly not disengaged from the wider world.) He comes up with an elegant theory: From the fundamentalist point of view,

It seems that the only way someone could resist faith in Jesus is that they're in the grip of some other ideology, some ideology deeper and more controlling than Christianity. UUs have been brainwashed into believing they can think freely, as it were.

Ah! Just like the following scene in Life of Brian, when the hapless, unwitting "prophet" tries to liberate all the followers he's accidentally acquired:

Look. You've got it all wrong. You don't need to follow me. You don't need to follow anybody! You've got to think for yourselves. You're all individuals!

Yes, we're all individuals!

You're all different!

Yes, we are all different!

I'm not.

Love that ironic twist at the end. Which leads me to wonder what sort of irony a cult can cultivate . . .

Posted by Philocrites, June 16, 2004, at 10:33 PM | 3 comments

Buruma v. Lewis.

The co-author of Occidentalism takes a crack at the world's leading Orientalist. Ian Buruma on the two minds of Bernard Lewis (New Yorker 6.14.04).

Posted by Philocrites, June 16, 2004, at 07:20 PM | 2 comments

Can't get enough of Strayhorn and the Unitarians?

Here's Davidson Loehr, minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, Texas, writing in yesterday's Austin American-Statesman:

It has been interesting watching the Texas comptroller's office try to define what counts as real religion in Texas. In addition to picking on Austin's Ethical Society for four years, the comptroller's office decided last fall that Unitarians are also among the Great Unwashed, denying tax exemption to the Red River Unitarian Church in Denison. And this spring, when the state's case against the Ethical Society was finally rejected by the Texas Supreme Court as "constitutionally infirm," Carole Keeton Strayhorn, our current comptroller, promised to take her infirmity and Texas' reputation to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the original trial, state attorneys told the Ethical Society that it wasn't a religion unless all of its members believed in a God that was a being — not a symbol or concept, but an actual critter. (I was present at the original 2000 trial, as a proffer witness). Later, perhaps after talking with someone who had taken an actual religion course, the comptroller's office demanded only that some unspecified percentage of society members believe in "God or gods or a higher power." This is sweller, and should allow wiccans, AA chapters and algebra clubs to qualify.

Good one! Loehr goes on to describe a memorial service Strayhorn recently attended in his church, along with other less traditional services she could have attended at other times if she had wondered about UU diversity. He concludes:

You know, maybe this whole business of granting tax exemptions to religious institutions should be revisited. Maybe the exemption should be proportional to the number and range of sincere and nuanced beliefs a church is able to embrace. That would do a more adequate job of serving the immense variety of spiritual paths taken by our citizens.

But I don't mean to tell Strayhorn how to do her job. Heck, I'm no more of an authority on comptrolling than comptrollers are on, say, religion.

("Lessons you can learn from the Unitarians," Davidson Loehr, Austin American-Statesman 6.15.04, reg req'd)

Posted by Philocrites, June 16, 2004, at 07:08 PM | 0 comments

Monday, June 14, 2004

Designated prayer.

Who will give the invocation at the Democratic Convention in Boston? It won't be a representative of the United Church of Christ, Episcopal Bishop Tom Shaw, or UUA President Bill Sinkford — the leaders of the largest and oldest Protestant denominations in Massachusetts, each of which is "too liberal" to provide the impression that the Party is welcoming to the big blocs of "religious" voters the Democrats want to woo — and it certainly won't be Archbishop O'Malley. Hmm.

David O'Brien has some ideas in "Who Will Bless the Democrats?" (Boston Globe 6.14.04).

Posted by Philocrites, June 14, 2004, at 08:28 AM | 7 comments

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Are you a UU blog addict?

Just can't help yourself, can you? It's okay. Channel that Unitarian Universalist obsession! Apply to join the writers at Coffee Hour: We're looking for a blog reviewer. Check it out!

Posted by Philocrites, June 13, 2004, at 08:11 PM

The sermon at Boston's Gay Pride celebration.

From the Globe's report on yesterday's exultant Gay Pride celebration:

Earlier in the day, hundreds of people packed the Old South Church in Copley Square for an interfaith service during which newly married couples, and those planning to marry, were asked to stand, and treated to resounding applause. The sermon was delivered by the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the openly gay priest whose consecration last year as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire has divided the denomination.

Calling it an honor to preach before "brothers and sisters in the struggle," Robinson paid tribute to the recent progress made by gays and lesbians. He also addressed what he views as the remaining prejudice in the church.

"What we're celebrating here today is more unnerving to many in the religious establishment than our parade," he said. ''We are worthy to hold our heads high, not just because we decided we are worthy, but because God has proclaimed it."

The bishop urged his listeners to spread the news about their faith, especially to other gays and lesbians who have been ''so hurt . . . this is the last place they would look for healing and wholeness."

"You and I need to come out about God," he said. "If we don't tell them, who will?"

("Gay pride parade pays tribute to marriage," Jenna Russell, Boston Globe 6.13.04)

Posted by Philocrites, June 13, 2004, at 08:03 PM | 0 comments

Praise the film!

Mrs Philocrites and I whole-heartedly recommend Saved!, the teen flick about Evangelical culture. I can't vouch for the verisimilitude of the world portrayed in the film, but Mrs Philocrites — who grew up in the Evangelical Free Church and was quite active in Evangelical circles until she shifted gears to the Episcopal Church in college — says that Pastor Skip and the school assembly scene in particular are bulls-eye parodies. We give Saved! two thumbs up.

Christianity Today, one of the leading Evangelical magazines, is advertising a little blurb on Google:

Is "Saved!" Accurate?
CT magazine looks at why this film
seems to be an accurate portrayal.

In the essay, Anastasia McAteer writes:

I would have been proud to have made this movie. It absolutely reflects my experience in all accuracy. And its message is exactly what I wanted to say to my friends in the pews. Is it possible that Christians wouldn't deride it if someone like me, a confessing Christian with the right evangelical pedigree, would have made the film? Would it then have been a "searing look into the faults of the church with a message that could stand to be echoed in the pulpit"? I wonder.

I didn't find anything in the movie to be over the top. I don't know where people are getting that. It's absolutely the way evangelical schools are, it's the way evangelicals act, it's the way we are in our bubble.

Every character in Saved! has several real-life counterparts that I personally have met. Maybe we don't realize how weird we look, and thus the accusation of satire. But I look around the church and the movie is what I see.

The closest Mormon analog to Saved! is a charming film called The Singles Ward, a nearly toothless satire of life in a congregation of unmarried young people in my homeland, Utah County. Until that movie loses its nerve in the last few minutes — the re-conversion of the wayward protagonist struck me as not just unconvincing but also entirely nostalgic rather than religious — I thought it was the best pop-culture product about Mormon life I've encountered.

Now who's going to make a parody of Unitarian Universalist young adult life? Con-Con: The Movie could be damn funny.

Posted by Philocrites, June 13, 2004, at 10:31 AM | 8 comments

Whadda we want?

"Hey hey, ho ho, old protest tactics have to go" (Randal C. Archibold, New York Times 6.13.04, reg req'd)

Posted by Philocrites, June 13, 2004, at 09:27 AM | 0 comments

Outsourcing prayer.

From today's New York Times:

With Roman Catholic clergy in short supply in the United States, Indian priests are picking up some of their work, saying Mass for special intentions, in a sacred if unusual version of outsourcing.

American, as well as Canadian and European churches, are sending Mass intentions, or requests for services like those to remember deceased relatives and thanksgiving prayers, to clergy in India.

("Short on priests, U.S. Catholics outsource prayers to Indian clergy," Saritha Rai, New York Times 6.13.04, reg req'd)

Posted by Philocrites, June 13, 2004, at 09:21 AM | 0 comments

Friday, June 11, 2004

Praying on the left.

I'm always happy to cheer signs of strategic thinking by religious liberals, and I hope a conference earlier this week may do some good in rousing left-of-center people of faith to speak up, organize, and share their theological and political ideas in public. (It would sure help if the Clergy Leadership Network would get its Web site together, though. Until they do, here's the Center for American Progress page on its Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative.)

After noting that the most frequent churchgoers do tend to vote Republican, and complaining about the way the media equates "religious" with "conservative" and acknowledging that religious liberals don't enjoy butting heads with some ferociously anti-religious folks on the left, the Washington Post story about the conference describes some of the other problems we face:

"Part of it is our fault. We should take back the Bible, take back the theological principles and not just cede them to the religious right," said the Rev. Susan B. Thistlethwaite, a minister in the United Church of Christ and president of the Chicago Theological Seminary. "It's not good enough to talk in vague terms about values. We can do better than that. We can make the theological arguments."

Historian Taylor Branch said that in the 1970s, the abortion issue split the progressive religious alliance that had formed in the civil rights movement. Since then, the left has done no better than the right in "moving beyond polemics," he said.

"Not many people who call themselves pro-choice actually want to celebrate abortion, and not many of those who call themselves pro-life want to put women in jail for having abortions," he said. "It's more of a show than a debate, with polarizing options that aren't real. Both sides profess that they love children, but you don't really have the two sides doing very much to cooperate to reduce the number of neglected and abandoned and unwanted children, or to care for them."

The Rev. Charles Henderson, a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister who publishes the interfaith quarterly CrossCurrents, said that from the 1950s through the 1970s, the mainline Protestant denominations took for granted that their values would infuse television and the public schools. Evangelicals, who felt shut out of establishment institutions, created their own schools and broadcast outlets. "Then you wake up one day in 1984 and the Christian right is dominant, and you wonder why," he said.

("Religious Left Seeks Center of Political Debate," Alan Cooperman, Washington Post 6.10.04, reg req'd)

And asking for forgiveness.

Meanwhile, as President Bush continues pretending that torture isn't immoral so long as it's (kinda, sorta, hey our fingers were crossed) legal, a group of American religious leaders is broadcasting an apology on Al Jezeera and Al Arabiya television (NYT, reg req'd).

"The impetus for this ad was from the deep sense of moral regret that we were hearing from people of faith across the country," said Tom Perriello, the co-director of — the month-old nonprofit advocacy group that created the ad.

"We believe that the abuses are both sinful and systematic and that the moral damage of this around the world will last a long time," he said. . . .

In the ad, a Presbyterian, a Muslim, a Catholic and a Jew read a statement as written Arabic translations appear.

Here's the ad. (Thanks, Amy at The Gadflyer!)

Posted by Philocrites, June 11, 2004, at 08:10 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Announcing our winners!

Boston Globe / Pool Photo / Vincenzo Pinto

A distinguished panel of judges — Kenneth and Sonja — met early this morning to review your entries in our Misunderestimated Caption contest, and they have selected three truly deserving winners. Roll out the red carpet; let the trumpets sound:

  • Most Topical Caption: "Your Holiness, is this man bothering you?" (andante)

  • Best Caption: "President Bush impatiently surveys the scene for a bottle of communion wine." (Mark Brooks)

  • Best of Show: "Yes. Jeb is actually the smart one." (UncleHornHead)

Congratulations to the winners and to our perspicacious judges.

Posted by Philocrites, June 9, 2004, at 05:05 PM | 1 comments

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Your deadline looms.

Add your caption before Wednesday morning, when a distinguished panel of judges will select three winners for fame and glory. (I'm laughing too hard at the submissions to select a winner myself.) Winners will be announced at the end of the day.

Posted by Philocrites, June 8, 2004, at 05:52 PM | 0 comments

Monday, June 7, 2004

Why do smart Mormons like post-modernism?

The editor of the conservative Catholic journal First Things, Damon Linker, is a guest blogger over at the Mormon blog Times and Seasons. He taught at BYU for two years, and asks a question based on that experience that I've been curious about since my year as a student there:

One of the things that I found most interesting about the intellectual life of BYU is how many thoughtful Mormons . . . understand their faith in terms derived, at some level, from postmodernist thought. This is in radical contrast to Roman Catholics, who usually appeal to some version of Thomism — that is, a tradition of philosophical reflection rooted in a holistic account of the natural world, including natural (and supernatural) ends or purposes. Mormons, by contrast, often reject such naturalism. There are, as I understand it, at least two reasons for this. First of all, there is the apostasy, which can be described, at least in part, as a debasement or distortion of authentic Christian teaching by concepts derived from the Greek philosophical tradition. This is actually just a radicalized version of an argument that many of the Protestant Reformers made about the decline of the Church in the Middle Ages. As I understand it, it means that the Church Fathers (Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, etc.) created a synthesis of reason and revelation many centuries before Thomas Aquinas made his own attempt to do so. The result was, supposedly, a dismal failure, with biblical religion coming to be interpreted in terms quite foreign to it.

He goes on to describe some philosophical issues, but I think he hit on the core of the appeal already. Here's my response:

It seems to me that post-modern discourse gives some Mormon thinkers a way to leap over the intellectual dilemmas not just of Thomism but of the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and pretty much every intellectual tradition with roots someplace other than first-century Judaea, fourth-century Zarahemla, and nineteenth-century Nauvoo. Post-modernism is the smart Mormon's way to believe that the "great apostasy" drew a dark curtain across nineteen centuries of intellectual development without sounding like an anti-intellectual. It gives some people a way to think that, sure, Nietzsche said devastating things — but only about the decadent apostasy; none of it applies to us. And post-modernism offers the added benefit that, unlike the conservatism of First Things or anti-modernist intellectual movements, it seems eminently au courant. Wrapped in post-modernism, Mormonism can be at once radical, smart, and still authoritarian and absolutist! What more could you ask for?

Philosophically, I have no quarrel with Mormons who see resources in post-modern thought. But there's a history-of-ideas aspect to its appeal for Mormons. There are reasons that some Mormons find post-modernism appealing that have little to do with the coherence of the ideas and a lot to do with a religious-cultural predisposition to regard other Western intellectual and theological traditions with extreme suspicion.

Posted by Philocrites, June 7, 2004, at 06:12 PM | 9 comments

Sunday, June 6, 2004

We don't wish to alarm you, but...

Here's a headline worth sustained reflection, from today's Globe:

Rumsfeld fears U.S. losing war against Islamic extremism

And the Secretary of Defense goes on to say:

"We do not have a coherent approach to this," he said at an international security conference.

Get these people out of office.

Posted by Philocrites, June 6, 2004, at 09:21 AM | 2 comments

Imagining Catholicism.

At last! An article in a newspaper that reflects people's faith rather than simply describing political controversies and institutional intrigues. (Of course, there's no shortage of either in this story, but the Boston Globe gives us a conversation with four Massachusetts Roman Catholic artists about their adult faith: "Scandal, Stereotype, 'Sin': Do 'Mystic River' and 'The Sopranos' get it right? Four Catholics on whether they see themselves in today's pop culture" (Louise Kennedy, Boston Globe 6.6.04).

Restraining conservative bishops. And here's news that the Vatican isn't happy with the noisy way some U.S. Catholic bishops have talked about barring some politicians from communion: "Communion Issue Creates Split Among U.S. Bishops" (Laurie Goodstein, New York Times 6.6.04, reg req'd).

Six months after Archbishop Raymond L. Burke announced that he would deny communion to Roman Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, only a handful of bishops have said they agree and many more have made it clear that they think he went too far.

The discord among the bishops, a group that usually tries to speak with a unified voice, has provoked dismay from Vatican officials and even Pope John Paul II, according to transcripts and reports of recent Vatican meetings with American prelates.

Cardinal Joseph F. Ratzinger, a Vatican official, told a group of visiting American bishops last week that he wanted to meet with an American task force that is studying how to relate to Catholic politicians. And the pope, in an address on marriage last month to American bishops, made a general but pointed reference to "the formation of factions within the church" in the United States.

The bishops are scheduled to hash out the issue at a closed meeting starting June 14 in Englewood, Colo. It will be the first time since the contretemps began that the bishops who disagree with Archbishop Burke, who was bishop of La Crosse, Wis., and is now archbishop of St. Louis, will have a chance to debate.

"They're all waiting for the meeting in Denver when they can get behind closed doors and complain about this," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of America, a Catholic magazine.

"There's nothing the bishops dislike more than the appearance of being in disarray," Father Reese said. He added, "They need to have a national policy because when one person denies communion and gets headlines across the country, people wrongly assume he's speaking for all the bishops, and he's not."

Good news!

Posted by Philocrites, June 6, 2004, at 09:17 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, June 5, 2004

Your caption here.

Boston Globe / Pool Photo / Vincenzo Pinto

From the front page of today's Boston Globe. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words — but let's not just settle for the pricelessness of this image. Let's have a contest! Write the perfect caption.

Update 6.7.04: Such great responses! I have appointed a jury to select the top three captions tomorrow — so if you would like to be considered for fame and glory, please add your caption by 9:00 a.m. EDT on Wednesday. Multiple entries welcome. Outdo yourselves.

Posted by Philocrites, June 5, 2004, at 06:14 PM | 21 comments

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

'Unitarian Universalism' got your tongue?

Will Shetterly launches month two at Coffee Hour with an ambitious discussion topic: Does Unitarian Universalism — "eleven syllables, twenty-one letters" of confusion to newcomers and newspaper editors alike — need a new name? I'm still on my blogging diet, so I'll be posting my response next week. Don't let me stop you, though: Head over to Coffee Hour and talk amongst yourselves.

Posted by Philocrites, June 1, 2004, at 05:37 PM | 1 comments

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