11 August 2004 Daily Links

Every now and then you come across a prayer that is so crazy, so ecstatic, so much in love with…something that it works for you even if you don’t believe half of what it says. Rob Brezsny‘s prayer to a “Dear Goddess, sweet Goddess, You sly universal virus with no f—— opinion” is one such prayer, and it’s worth looking at even if you don’t believe anything it says, because it’s part of the great cacophony of prayers being sent up to the heavens every day by Christians and Jews and Muslims and “free will astrologers,” hoodoo guru pagans, and all the other true believers who don’t claim a big enough piece of American religious real estate to get a capital letter. Or do they? How many of those Christians, Jews, and Muslims check in daily for a bit of free will astrology? Isn’t it worth remembering that the only president to explicitly attribute decisions to a higher power was Reagan, and that higher power was — were — the stars? Doesn’t Disney, the biggest church in America, begin its liturgy with a star? Is astrology — for better or worse — the American faith?

Father of fury, Father of dust: The Guardian’s Rory McCarthy talks to the first-known Britons to join the Shia rebels in Najaf: two young men, raised in England, who have returned to Iraq to fight the occupying U.S. troops. The men, who used the nommes de guerre Abu Haqid (father of fury) and Abu Turab (father of dust, the connotation of death), had the support of their families, but say they would be here regardless. “‘It is our religion and our families can’t stop this thing. We all have a belief, me and my family, when it comes to jihad.'” Missing from McCarthy’s otherwise-intriguing report though, is any exploration of what that belief is, or how jihad is being defined outside of the media, and outside of the Middle East.

South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster enters the fray regarding Great Falls’s appeal of the federal court order preventing religion-specific prayers in town meetings. McMaster’s office filed an Amicus brief in support of the town’s appeal, arguing that the court’s ruling “‘will inevitably plunge headlong into the thorny thicket of prayer content review.'”

Jim Towey, head of the White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, addressed leaders of Maine’s Catholic Charities last week, promising to fight “discriminatory” or “bullying” local governments that impede federal funding of religious groups. In 2003, the APreports, Catholic Charities sued the city of Portland over its domestic partnership ordinance, which requires groups to provide some benefits to same-sex or unmarried partners of employees to qualify for federal funds. In response to Towey, the omnipresent Rev. Barry Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, argued, “‘It is not bullying to tell a group that it has to obey the same laws as everyone else.'”

“[Pope] John Paul plays the part of Ronald Reagan to [Cardinal Joseph] Ratzinger’s Pat Buchanan,” writes John L. Allen Jr. in The Miami Herald, profiling Ratzinger, the Catholic Church’s doctrinal czar, and the Pope’s intellectual guru since 1981. Ratzinger, who has shaped church doctrine on many “culture war” issues, is back in the news with his recent critique of “radical” feminism, which, he argues, has led women to deny their maternal and nurturing natures and has spread confusion about gender that promotes homosexuality.


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