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July 17th, 2008

Nearly 150,000 young people from all over the world have gathered in Sydney, Australia to meet, learn, share their faith…and to get an experience of the Pope up close and personal.

While there are plenty of scheduled events to attend, the most compelling aspect of World Youth Day is easily the opportunity to interact with so many different young adults from all over the globe. On the afternoon of the event’s opening I had the chance to interview some young women from Tonga—a group of islands in the southwest Pacificabout the challenges of integrating their faith and Tongan culture. (Hear the interview here.)

My companions from Chicago and I ran off to the Opening Ceremonies later in the day and heard a surprisingly religious welcome from Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. He began his address to the pilgrims by saying: “Some say that faith is irrelevant in the 21st Century…I say they are wrong.  Some say that faith and reason cannot live together.  I say again, they are wrong.”

The Prime Minister went on to praise the work that the Catholic Church has done in with the poor, specifically their work in schools, hospitals, and offering places of refuge to those in need.

Firestorm
The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell set off a small firestorm of controversy this morning by starting off matters in this largely secular country with a staunch pro-life message. All the local papers characterized it as “populate or perish.” “No Western country is producing enough babies to keep the population stable” the Archbishop said. “Ruthless commercial forces are telling young people that this is the way forward, this is the modern way and they remain totally silent of the difficulties and damage this does to marriage and family life.”

While he challenged Catholics to turn away from a contraceptive mentality and to have more children, many pilgrims here in Sydney, who agree with the heart of the Cardinal’s message questioned if the timing of his words at the start of World Youth Day was necessary.

Regardless, they came out …

July 15th, 2008

The following story appeared in the July 13, 2008 edition of the New York Times.

Mike from El Paso was on the phone line to “The Catholic Guy,” the afternoon drive-time talk program produced via the unlikely partnership of Sirius Satellite Radio (familiar to most people as “Howard Stern’s network”) and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York.

“I called the other day?” said Mike. “About how much I miss confession?” This would be the Mike who was barred from the sacrament of confession under church law because he married a divorced woman whose first marriage was never annulled.

“Yes, I remember!” bellowed the host, Lino Rulli, the Catholic guy of the show’s title. “Mike the Adulterer! O.K., Mike. Are you ready to play ‘Let’s Make a Catholic Deal’?”

It seems an odd marriage of sensibilities: the rough banter of talk radio as practiced by pioneer shock jocks like Mr. Stern and Don Imus, joined at the neck to an official Catholic broadcast whose underlying mission is herding people back into the fold of a religious orthodoxy.

But the stated mission of this new enterprise known as the Catholic Channel is to offer something more than “the audio equivalent of stained glass and incense,” as Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese, refers to conventional religious radio.

Since taking to the air 18 months ago — with an understanding that there would be no promotional spots for Mr. Stern’s show on any of its programs — the channel has harnessed Sirius, a subscription-only radio network made possible largely by the immense drawing power of Mr. Stern’s profane and pornography-friendly programming, to help propagate a 2,000-year-old institution that preaches against more or less every bodily impulse Mr. Stern has ever named, demonstrated or otherwise celebrated on his show.

Today, in studios down the hall from Mr. Stern’s in Sirius’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters — where Sirius generates a gigantic menu of radio catering to dozens of niche tastes including sports, gay politics, hip-hop and Martha Stewart — the Catholic Channel, No. 159 on the dial, produces a 24-hour stream …

July 14th, 2008

Longtime Busted Halo® contributing editor Robert Anthony Siegel recently traveled to Google’s headquarters to participate in the company’s prestigious Authors@Google series with a reading from his most recent novel All Will Be Revealed. The series, held in Mountain View, California, has also played host to such luminaries as Noam Chomsky, Richard Price and Salman Rushdie.

Siegel was born in New York City and educated at Harvard, the University of Tokyo, and the Iowa Writers Workshop. He teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, where he lives with his wife, the writer Karen E. Bender, and their two children. He has received fellowships from the Japanese Ministry of Education, the Iowa Writers Workshop, and the Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown.

This event took place on June 20, 2008.

Read our excerpt from the book here.

July 13th, 2008

On Sunday, July 13th Busted Halo® Managing Editor Mike Hayes will be featured on Canada’s National Catholic TV Network, Salt and Light at 7pm and 11pm (EST). The show is called “Catholic Focus” and Mike will be interviewed for the entire program by host Pedro Guevara-Mann on How to Minister to Young Adults in the 21st Century and the findings in his book Googling God (Busted Halo® Books).

Salt and Light TV is Canada’s first national Catholic Television Network. You can watch the show live over the internet as well by going to their website www.saltandlighttv.org and clicking on “Live Streaming” just under the logo on the upper left side.

Mike will also be covering World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia beginning on July 15 and running through July 20th for Busted Halo®.

July 10th, 2008

Who knows, were he born a century earlier perhaps Radiohead’s Thom Yorke might have picked up a paintbrush instead of a microphone. Yorke and 19th century Post-Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh (1857-1890) occupy completely different artistic fields from different eras and seemingly different worlds, but with the release of Radiohead’s recent In Rainbows Yorke proves yet again that—despite the 115 years that separate their births—and he is a spiritual brother of the legendary painter. There is something in each of these men that screams its way into the conscience of the world, something undeniably distorted and utterly beautiful.

Refusing to give in to the burden of past successes Radiohead’s 10-track disc is a disturbed take on everything from love and vice to trust and isolation. In Rainbows features some of Yorke’s most haunting lyrics and some of the most playfully elusive guitar hooks ever conjured out of the mind of Jonny Greenwood. Somehow this digitally glitch-filled collection manages to be both organic and quietly pleasing.

Hello Dali

Both Yorke and Van Gogh are masters at conjuring abstract expressions of the world around them from unique, albeit troubled perspectives. Van Gogh wore his crazies right out on his sleeve—be it the bloodletting, ear-gouging moments, or twisted works like “Skull with Cigarette.” Yorke’s eccentricities, though subtle in nature, are also strangely unsettling. His spine-tingling, deranged falsetto croon sounds at times like frostbitten wind whipping through a desolate house and his lyrics often descend into a surreal, paranoid darkness as with “Jigsaw Fall Into Place” from In Rainbow’s:

The walls abandon shape
You’ve got a Cheshire cat grin
All blurring into one
This place is on a mission
Before the night owl
Before the animal noises

Closed circuit cameras
Before you’re comatose

Yeah, not exactly “Love Me Do.” This is the kind of stuff I’d imagine Dali painting after a long acid trip.

Both Van Gogh and Yorke enter art from a background filled with failure, rejection, and loss. Van Gogh spent his young adult life chasing after a preacher’s calling that never stuck, sleeping on straw mats …

July 9th, 2008

For most of my adult life, I was what you might call, a casual evolutionist.  You know, the type of person who could handle your run-of-the-mill, cocktail-party conversation on Darwinism.  All the obvious stuff just seemed to make sense, like how giraffes with longer necks had a better shot than their shorter cousins.  Or that stronger lions killed more zebras than the weak ones.  Or how Donald Trump is still able to date fashion models because…

OK, well, perhaps Darwin’s theory had its limits.

But during my recent breakup with my girlfriend, Linda—somewhere between the “I swear this is the last 3 am phone call” and the restraining order—I had an epiphany. With all the extra time on my hands and a serious existential crisis brewing, I began reading Richard Dawkins’ popular book The God Delusion.  Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist who became famous years ago for writing The Selfish Gene. His life’s work has been consumed with explaining how all of evolution goes back to genetics and all of life goes back to evolution.  The man is a genius. Reading Dawkins’ books was like being born again. It was as if the scales had been removed from my eyes. How could I have been so blind to how all-encompassing this theory of evolution truly is?

Origin of the Hotties
I finally had answers to all of the questions that had plagued me for years. Why am I attracted to certain kinds of women?  Well, obviously a beautiful woman is more likely to have beautiful children, and those children are more likely to reproduce and so it’s in my genetic best interest for me to fall in love with hotties. 

What about my thing for smart women?  Clearly, smart people have a better shot at surviving adversity—be it a wooly mammoth or a boardroom presentation—so my attraction to smart people has nothing to do with our shared “love of literature.”  I just want someone who will bear me smart, strong, sabre-tooth cat fighting children. 

All my categories had been blown apart. While I thought I was looking for …

July 7th, 2008

This weekend, we celebrated our nation’s independence with fireworks and cook-outs. But according to a recent Busted Halo® survey, young adults are struggling for an even more personal kind of independence this summer—financial independence.

More than 40% of respondents said they hold credit card debt, and nearly 50% are floating school loans. We’re the first generation in American history to be less well off at age 30 than our parents were at that age. And with the economy’s frequent hiccups, rising gas prices and falling home values, nearly half of respondents said financial discussions with loved ones have gotten more tense.

How can we declare independence from financial problems straining our relationships?

Busted Halo® readers responded in droves to our recent financial questionnaire, and one thing was clear: the old saying “money is power” is as true as ever, especially when it comes to Mom and Dad.

Do your parents control you with money?
This generation of young adults marries later, is more likely to live at home into their 20s and is more likely to receive financial help from Mom and Dad for longer. Indeed, nearly 4 in 10 adults age 60 or older give money to their adult children, according to the Pew Research Center.

Young-adults are aware that those purse strings are tied up with the family apron strings: More than one third of respondents said their parents have used money to control their decisions.

Sarah, 26, said her parents had the final decision on where she lived, because they were helping to pay the rent. Ann, 26, said her parents’ financial help influenced her choice of colleges. “They were willing to pay for the tuition for the school that I got a half scholarship to,” so she chose that school over a more expensive option. And Michael, 33, said until he finished graduate school, his parents meddled in his finances. “I discussed almost every purchase, aside from basic necessities with them. But, I guess they were helping with most of those bills.”

The old saying “money is power” is as true as

July 3rd, 2008

In a cultural climate such as the United States— where the sense of polarization along social, economic, political and religious lines seems to be the default posture — maintaining unity amidst great diversity has become a profound challenge.  As this division grows it can become increasingly difficult to hold onto one’s identity while being open to the values, beliefs, and cultures of others.

How can I be a free person while living in community?  This question is a practical application of the age-old philosophical problem of maintaining unity amidst diversity.  How can I retain my uniqueness while belonging to others is a question faced by every family, every neighborhood, every village, and every nation, but it is by no means a new challenge.

Great Seal
As we celebrate our nation’s independence it is important to remember how this same issue was faced by our forefathers who, during the Continental Congress of 1776, appointed Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams to create a seal and motto for the newly declared United States of America.  The thirteen colonies, with a highly diverse population, were to be one nation, one free people. The motto Franklin, Jefferson and Adams arrived at was e pluribus unum, the Latin phrase meaning "out of many, one" which can still be found today on the reverse side of the one dollar bill, within the Great Seal of the United States, on the ribbon carried by the bald eagle. 

The opening of the “Pauline Year” on June 29, 2008 by Pope Benedict— celebrating the 2000 years since St. Paul’s birth—also reminds us that this same concept of unity out of diversity was taken up by Saint Paul 1700 years earlier. His model of the Church as the Body of Christ is ingenious: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, and have all been made to drink of the one Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12: 13)

More recently, those seemingly diverse strains of thought—America’s and the Catholic Church’s—found their convergence …

July 1st, 2008

Until recently, I believed the most heavenly experience I would ever have through music happened at a U2 concert in 1997 when I had an OMG moment as Bono blew a kiss my way while he sang “Mysterious Ways.” Fans of the band will recall that same song—from their 1991 album Achtung Baby—featured a very sensual belly dancer shimmying through the video and live concerts from that period; but the Reverend Paige Blair, rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church in York Harbor, Maine, urges listeners to consider the music from the Dublin quartet in a completely different light.

“The belly dancer is great,” she says. “But listen to the wonderful intertwining of how God uses desire to draw us, tempt us and lure us closer to Him.” She goes on to elaborate on the “light” and “shadow” interpretations of the song. “There’s a dark side to the belly dancer—alluding to the dance of Salome,” she explains. As the story goes, the beautiful Salome so captivated King Herod with her dance that he vowed to give her anything she wanted. She asked—at her mother’s urging—for John the Baptist’s head on a tray. “That’s Johnny of Johnny, take a walk,” she points out. But the song is not all dark, she says. “The chorus, It’s alright…she moves in mysterious ways plays on the ‘God moves in mysterious ways’ phrase that we all use. And at the conclusion of the song, one voice is singing She moves with it, another voice is singing Spirit moves in mysterious ways—the Holy Spirit.”

Fish in the Sand
Three years ago, Blair started a GenX revolution of sorts at St. George’s by floating the idea of a ‘U2 Eucharist’ to her parishioners. “U2 has always been a Christian band. No other band has a 30-year history of singing about biblical, scriptural and spiritual matters,” she points out, referring to a quote by Bono from the book, U2 at the End of the World, in which he says, “Maybe we just have to sort of draw our fish in the sand. It’s there for people …

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June 30th, 2008

Even by Hollywood standards the story idea pitched to movie executives for Pixar’s WALL-E must have sounded hallucinogenic: “So we’ve got this robot, but it’s a really lonely robot, see, because all the humans have left Earth a complete wasteland and this poor little guy has to pick up their trash—forever! Yeah! He’ll be busy picking up their trash for like, 700 years, and he’ll only have one friend…um…a cockroach. And then let’s say he falls in love with another robot and ultimately makes the planet safe for all the humans again! Oh, oh, and people will leave the movie wanting to save the Earth.”

When word first spread about Pixar’s latest film, about a silent robot who saves the world, industry analysts were placing bets that this, finally, would be Pixar’s undoing. Sure, they had recently pulled off a movie about a rat that became a chef at a fine restaurant (Ratatouille), but this—a silent movie? A robot romance?—was just too much. The creative minds at Pixar have produced gems like Toy Story and The Incredibles that are flat-out excellent films—even Pixar’s relative dud, Cars, is Citizen Kane compared to most animated movies. But could they pull this off? After seeing WALL-E on its opening day, I can tell you the answer is yes, yes, yes. No movie has ever made me call all my friends immediately to insist they see it, and certainly no movie has ever compelled me to break state laws and call those friends on my cell phone while driving. I didn’t care. If a cop had pulled me over, I would have told him to see WALL-E too.

Little Tramp
“But it’s a robot,” my friends told me. “I know,” I said, “but he’s not just a robot. He’s WALL-E!” After all, Bambi and The Lion King are about a deer and a lion we come to love, and it’s just about impossible not to fall in love with WALL-E.

Clearly indebted to Charlie Chaplin’s …

June 27th, 2008

My last column, "Wives, obey your husbands?" was intentionally provocative… and it worked!

Over the years, as I attended different parishes during college and beyond, I noticed something odd: Depending on the priest, we’d hear different versions of readings from Colossians and Ephesians about how a man and a woman should love and honor each other.

The full text of this New Testament letter from Paul includes this advice: "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as it behoveth in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and be not bitter towards them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to indignation, lest they be discouraged."

But sometimes, entire verses would be omitted to avoid the part about how wives should be subject to their husbands. What was going on?

Turns out that since 1998, U.S. Catholic priests have had a choice: They can choose not to read these verses, or on alternate years (it’s on an A, B and C system, and the Colossians reading is only assigned to Year A) they can choose an entirely new reading.

Is there a right way to handle this beautiful-but potentially confusing-reading? I spoke with two liturgical scholars and priests, and quoted them in my article. Soon, BustedHalo readers were sending in thoughtful and thought-provoking emails in response.

One theme that emerged was the need for context with this-and any other-Bible verse. As Mike wrote in, "The church plops us down in the middle of these letters and stories without giving us any of the context-that’s the job of the priest in the homily," and often that falls short, too.

Read a few of these letters and you’ll learn a bit more about the context of this well-known verse on marriage and family, and then email me at puresex@bustedhalo.com to join the discussion.

Old School?

Dear Christine,
Really liked what you wrote. John F. Baldovin, S.J is right about the necessity of explaining the context. You can’t read (or delete) Ephesians 5:22-24 without reading what goes before it- ‘Submit to one another out of …

June 25th, 2008

Young lovers hear inhuman growls when they stroll past it. Passing tourists feel tugs at their shopping bags, but when they whirl around, nothing is there. Teenage thrill-seekers take photos of it and delight in the beast-like faces that show up in empty windows.

The abandoned Gothic mansion at 432 Abercorn in Savannah, Georgia is haunted, but it’s not the city’s only ghost-ridden structure. “Up to 80% of homes and buildings in the historic district of Savannah are haunted,” says Scott Warner, a ghost tour guide for Ghost Talk Ghost Walk in Savannah.

Shannon Scott, a local paranormal investigator, says that the American Institute for Parapsychology (AIP) recently designated Savannah, Georgia the most haunted city in the United States. “Savannah’s a living classroom for anyone studying the paranormal,” Scott says.

Savannah is noted not just for its ghosts, but also for the many houses of worship that line its Spanish moss-draped, tree-lined streets. So what better place than Savannah—locked in the Bible Belt—to learn what religion has to say about ghosts?

Luke 24: 37-39
James Caskey, a Savannah local and owner of Cobblestone Tours, a ghost tour company, says that he doesn’t see a contradiction between believing in the Bible and ghosts. Caskey, who researched the topic for his book, Haunted Savannah, says that the New Testament supports a belief in ghosts.

“Up to 80% of homes and buildings in the historic district of Savannah are haunted”

Caskey quotes Luke 24:37-39, where Jesus, after his resurrection, appears to the apostles and reprimands them for thinking he’s a ghost: “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

Caskey argues that Jesus did not chastise his apostles in Luke 24 for believing in ghosts but rather for believing that he (Jesus) was a ghost. Caskey writes in his book: “Jesus shows a familiarity with ghosts in this passage … He even notes the difference: …

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June 24th, 2008

“I pray that the community spirit stays strong in all these communities, and that the floods can’t drown the love we feel for our neighbors in times of need.”

June 23rd, 2008

Earlier this month, a Catholic watchdog group protested a student art exhibition that displayed certain religious symbols in a sexually explicit manner. Have you ever been offended by a piece of art?

June 19th, 2008

Ever since re-engaging with my faith a few years back, I’ve found myself hanging out with a growing number of other Catholics. They support me in my spiritual growth; they understand my obscure Catholic jokes. There’s comfort in this.

But I’ve always had many non-Catholic friends too, with whom I’ve shared interests and struggles and laughs. And they too, have made invaluable contributions to my faith journey.

They’ve given me a more balanced picture of Christ. My best childhood friend Jenny, whose family belonged to a non-denominational Bible church, had a picture on her bedroom wall. It showed a smiling Jesus sitting in the grass, surrounded by kids in modern clothes. Contrast that with the prevailing iconography at my Catholic school—a sad-faced Christ with a halo and a “sacred heart” pierced with swords. While that Catholic Jesus felt remote and scary, the kids-in-the-field God was like a favorite babysitter, someone you could go to for a hug when you skinned your knee.

I liked that image of Christ. Heck, I still do.

They’ve helped me delve more deeply into my own beliefs. On the cusp of my re-engagement with Catholicism, I had a Mormon friend and colleague. The extent to which he was able to explain his beliefs was inspiring. It made me take a good hard look into the center of my own faith. What do I believe? Why do I believe it? I checked out library books on Catholicism, the first serious study of my faith that I’d done as an adult. Five years later, I’m still reading. Even better, I’m still growing. …

June 18th, 2008

“Each painting lays out in black, white, purple and magenta just how present G-D is in all aspects of life.”

June 14th, 2008

“When he saw those values reflected back to him in the people he came across like the Jesuit priests who taught him, his dad’s drinking buddies or Senator Moynihan who he once worked for, Russert drew a clear line tracing it all back to his father’s living room in Buffalo.”

June 12th, 2008

As someone who studies the family and relationships, I usually look forward to the discussion of these big, important issues in the liturgy. At one church I attended during childhood summers, fathers would be recognized on Father’s Day by standing up and receiving applause. At another church, I remember mothers receiving a special blessing on Mother’s Day. And on the feast of the Holy Family, usually the Sunday after Christmas, the readings always caught my attention.

But over the years, as I attended different parishes during college and beyond, I noticed something odd: Depending on the priest, we’d hear different versions of readings from Colossians and Ephesians about how a man and a woman should love and honor each other.

The full text of this New Testament letter from Paul, includes this advice: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as it behoveth in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and be not bitter towards them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to indignation, lest they be discouraged.”

Choice Verses
Since 1998, U.S. Catholic priests have a choice: They can choose not to read these verses, or on alternate years (it’s on an A, B and C system, and the Colossians reading is only assigned to Year A) they can choose an entirely new reading.

“There’s an interesting gender tension within the church right now: As women earn more education and excel in the workforce, and as the gender roles of marriage become more fluid, the idea that women should obey and submit to their husbands, or keep silent and not have authority over men, is increasingly out of touch with the way we live our lives.”

This has turned into a point of interest for me: Will the priest read the “Wives, be subject to your husbands” line, or not?

“My usual approach is not to have a difficult text read if I am not going to try to address it somehow in the homily, or put it in its proper context and try to explain why it is not a ‘text …

June 9th, 2008

“Do you think Barack Obama should choose Hillary Clinton to be his running mate?”

June 6th, 2008

June 5, 2008. Memorial of Saint Boniface, bishop and martyr. Father Dave asks us to look to the martyrs for inspiration and strength to carry burdens of all kinds for one another.St. Malachy’s Church, Broadway and 49th, Times Square, New York City. Thursday, June 6, 2008, 12:15pm Mass.

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