Busted Halo
Features : Politics & Culture
March 30th, 2006
Start acting like baboons…

“The good news for humans is that it looks like peaceable conditions, once established, can be maintained” says primatologist Frans de Waal. “And if Baboons can do it, why not us?”
In 2004, Stanford University biologist and neurologist Robert Sapolsky reported that violence considered normal among baboons, can be radically and permanently transformed. Over twenty years ago in Kenya, primatologists observed a troop of baboons whose social patterns reconfigured themselves when all the alpha males raiding a dump were wiped out by eating meat laced with bovine tuberculosis. Less aggressive males had not been welcome to go along with the tough guys, and all of a sudden there were no…

March 14th, 2006
A Catholic conversation about faith, fiction and friendship

Jim Shepard and Ron Hansen are two of America’s most esteemed contemporary fiction writers. They are also fast friends and Catholics (in very different ways, as our interview reveals).
Shepard and Hansen met in 1980 when they were both teachers at the University of Michigan. Hansen had recently published his first novel, Desperadoes, and Shepard was working on his first, Flights. Since their earliest encounters, slinging a football around the parks of Ann Arbor, they’ve spent countless hours talking books over whiskey, helping to edit and refine each other’s work, and acting as generous cheerleaders for contemporary writers whom they believe in.

Shepard is the author of: Flights, Paper…

March 2nd, 2006
The author of Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right talks about America's spiritual crisis

FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover once called Michael Lerner the most dangerous man in America because of his anti-Vietnam war activities. A sixties radical and member of the Seattle Seven (radical anti-war protestors who were charged with “conspiracy to incite a riot” in 1970), Lerner went on to practice psychotherapy, edit a magazine and—perhaps most surprising of all—become a rabbi. He brings these multiple perspectives to bear in his new book on religion and politics, The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right.
The Left Hand of God begins with a lament for the spiritual crisis Rabbi Lerner sees in contemporary America. “We live in a world in which a technocratic…

February 22nd, 2006
Understanding Muslim reaction to the Mohammed cartoons

As television newscasters were reporting every night for weeks back in April 2002 on the story of Israeli troops surrounding Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity and the Franciscan Monks who had given asylum and shelter to some militant and some civilian Palestinians I barely glanced up from my microwaved Lean Cuisine dinner each evening.
The only reason I was aware of these events at all was because my good friend Madian Khouly would urgently tell me what was happening at the site of Jesus’ birth. It was important to him and he thought it should be important to me, since I am a Catholic. Madian is in his mid-thirties and owns the computer store where I get all my techno-gadgets. He comes from a Palestinian family…

February 10th, 2006
Censorship and the Super Bowl

It seemed like only a year ago we had buried the Super Bowl censorship debate for good.
When Paul McCartney took the stage with his piano in January 2005 for twelve of the most saccharine, inoffensive minutes in the history of musical performance, it was as if our bad memories of Janet Jackson disappeared. All thoughts of “wardrobe malfunctions” seemed to go the way of the “na na na’s” from “Hey Jude,” which innocuously floated out from Sir Paul’s lips into deep space where, some day, they will reach a race of super-advanced, soft-rock-loving aliens, convincing them to spare our planet.
But now once again we are asking ourselves about what’s appropriate…

February 1st, 2006
A New Documentary Shows Shocking Truth of Flesh Trade

Since the fall of the Berlin wall roughly 8 million Eastern European women have gone missing. Most have been trafficked into sexual slavery in North America, Asia and the Middle East.
In the former Soviet Bloc, salaries average the equivalent of $2200 a year. Traffickers find many women willing to risk everything for the opportunity to earn a better life and support their families from abroad. Instead of the promised jobs as nurses, caregivers to the elderly and nannies in first world countries, these women find themselves sold, beaten, drugged and raped before being forced into a life of prostitution. After drugs and arms smuggling, human trafficking is the second largest and most lucrative organized crime.…

January 30th, 2006
An ancient practice under a different name

When she was 13-years old and working as a waitress near Vera Cruz, Mexico, Rosa was offered an opportunity to make more money as a waitress in the United States by a man acquainted with her family. The man insisted that it was a no-lose situation-–Rosa could change jobs if she were not satisfied or even return home at any time if she wished.
She asked her parents for permission, but they flatly refused. Rosa, though, did not want to miss out on a chance to better her own life or that of her family, so she took the man up on his offer and secretly met him late at night as per his arrangement. Waiting for Rosa were a car and several more girls from nearby towns.
The youth were quickly transported to a location near the Mexican-American…

January 24th, 2006
Wisdom, courage and a good family life, the Old Testament's Deborah "had it all"

Ok, I admit it…in the Bible the men pulled off some pretty incredible feats: Moses parted the sea; Elijah called down fire from heaven to incinerate the wicked priests of Baal; Peter miraculously healed a cripple. Not unlike Hollywood, in the pages of sacred scripture it often seems as though all the juiciest, action-hero roles are reserved for men. And while they fill us with inspiration and admiration, I sometimes wonder where all the women are. Where are my spiritual sisters?
Often, we are led to believe that all women of leadership and personal strength are Jezebels–evil to the core and deserving of their horrible fate (lest we forget, the original Jezebel of the Bible was thrown from…

January 16th, 2006
BustedHalo's conversation with the co-founder of Killing the Buddha and author of the memoir Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and their Son

By the time he was in his late twenties, Peter Manseau had already received a bachelors degree in religion, spent time in a Trappist monastery considering a vocation to be a monk, worked at the National Yiddish Book Center and started the popular website Killing the Buddha which bills itself as “a religion magazine for people made anxious by churches.” If it seems like Manseau has a terminal case of God on the brain it is understandable, it is after all the family business. He is the youngest of three children born to Rev. Bill Manseau a former priest of the Archdiocese of Boston who refused to renounce his priestly vows when he married a former nun, Mary Doherty, in the late 1960s.
In his moving memoir, Vows:…

January 12th, 2006
Critic Harold Bloom wrestles with God in Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine

Who is Jesus? Who is God? Is it possible to discuss them apart from theological abstractions, as personalities with distinctly individual ways of seeing the world? And if so, do these personalities matter to us now in contemporary America? These are the questions that Harold Bloom addresses in his provocative new book, Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine.
Bloom comes to this task with an extraordinary pedigree. A professor at Yale, he is one of the most influential literary critics of the last forty years, the author of more than twenty books and the winner of numerous prizes, including a MacArthur “genius” award. In recent years, he has taken to writing for a general audience: The Western Canon, a…

January 4th, 2006
The controversial Catholic author talks about his new book on one of the Church's oldest prayers

As a cultural historian and author, Garry Wills has spent more than three decades researching and writing on historical figures like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan (his Lincoln at Gettsyburg won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for nonfiction) but it is as a writer on religion that Wills has been making his mark of late. With books like Papal Sin (2000), St. Augustine’s Memory (2002) and Why I Am A Catholic (2002) Wills has been both an outspoken advocate for and critic of the Catholic church.
His latest book, The Rosary, is both a history of one of Catholicism’s oldest practices as well as a prayer guide. Wills debunks myths surrounding the origins of the rosary and brings to light many…

December 24th, 2005
Reflections on St. Joseph from a soon-to-be adoptive father

As Christmas Day draws closer and crèche scenes start to pop up in New York City, I inevitably begin to think about the Holy Family. But this Christmas, as my wife and I begin the process of adopting a child, I find myself drawn closer to the life of St. Joseph than ever before.
Imagine Joseph’s surprise when, in his old age, he accepts Mary as his betrothed only to find out later that she is pregnant. By law, Joseph had the right to stone Mary. So the first intended audience for the gospel must have found it quite surprising that Joseph decided to simply “divorce her quietly.”
A second surprise is that this choice causes Joseph so much angst that he can not even sleep soundly. A dream instructs…

December 15th, 2005
A Look at Intercultural Relationships

On Christmas Eve, after returning from the Catholic children’s service, my family and I will sit down to a dinner of 7 vegetarian dishes. The main course will be a very modest, but nourishing bean soup called bop, a daily staple across much of the Balkan Peninsula. This plain menu is taken from my husband’s Bulgarian Orthodox tradition. So is the centerpiece on the table, an icon of the Madonna with Child, surrounded by candles representing friends and family who are both near and, in our hearts at least, never very far away. On Christmas Day, we will partake of a turkey or goose dinner more in keeping with the feasts I grew up with. The fridge will be so full of leftovers that we probably won’t cook…

December 1st, 2005
BustedHalo discusses "America's Moral Crisis" with the former President

It seemed to be a simple enough question requiring an even simpler answer. While running for President in 1976, Jimmy Carter responded to a political supporter who—in front of some reporters—asked if he was a born again Christian. “I truthfully answered ‘Yes,’ assuming all devout Christians were born again, of the Holy Spirit” Carter writes in his new book, Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis. “This was the first time that this religious characterization had been injected into the political arena, and there was an immediate furor, with media allegations that I claimed to be receiving messages directly from heaven…making clear to…

November 21st, 2005
BustedHalo interviews the bestselling author about her return to Catholicism and the direction her writing is taking with the publication of her new book Christ the Lord

Photos by Andrea Milo
Witches and vampires have been very good to Anne Rice. Since Interview with the Vampire was published in 1976, the New Orleans native has sold more than 100 million books worldwide and inspired legions of devoted fans with her dark, erotically charged tales. She’s become a fixture on the bestseller list and several of her twenty seven novels have been made into feature films or miniseries–a television series is also in the works for her books on the Mayfair Witches as well.
So why after decades of success has the Queen of the Undead decided to focus all of her writing on the King of Kings? That’s right, following her return to the Catholic Church in 1998–after a nearly…

November 13th, 2005
Innocent Voices speaks volumes about the true costs of war.

While our nation’s ongoing war in Iraq is still a hotly contested issue, for many of us it remains just that, one issue among many in an overheated climate of endless rhetoric and polarizing debate on 24-hour news outlets. It is another abstraction on the crowded American landscape of ideas, desires and beliefs. People like Cindy Sheehen don’t have that same luxury however. After her serviceman son was killed in Iraq, Sheehen became an advocate for peace and gained national attention for staging a “peace camp” in Crawford, Texas at which she held vigil and demanded President Bush give her an explanation of the “noble cause” her son had died for while he vacationed for five…

October 25th, 2005
Facts and fantasies about exorcism

With two major studio movies about exorcisms released in the past year (The Exorcist: The Beginning and The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and the re-release of the original version of The Exorcist on DVD it’s safe to say that Hollywood seems to have a bit of a fixation with the Devil lately. The most recent offering, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, had the third highest September opening in history and has grossed 73.9 million dollars at the box office thus far. Because Emily Rose was “based on a true story” its release also inspired a flurry of television specials on the subject of possession. Why is it that this dark, mysterious and unexplainable aspect of belief, particularly of Catholicism seems to strike…

September 27th, 2005
BustedHalo talks once again with "Fr. Gerard Thomas"

This past February BustedHalo published an extended interview with Fr. Gerard Thomas, a celibate, gay priest who–using an assumed name for fear of reprisal–spoke very candidly about the presence of gay men in the priesthood, the pedophilia scandal and the rumors of a Vatican document that would bar homosexuals from becoming priests.
Recently there has been much talk in the mainstream press that the Vatican document will be released in the very near future, sparking a great deal of controversy among Catholics. On the heels of this news BustedHalo once again spoke to Fr. Thomas about the issue of gay men in the priesthood and seminaries and why he believes that the Vatican’s changes will prove…

September 23rd, 2005
A Constitutional Law professor discusses the nomination and confirmation hearings of

CNS Photo
Considering their limited number (nine), their lifetime appointments and the far-reaching effects of their decisions, the nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is an infrequent and important event. Of course, like many things in Washington, the process can also be extraordinarily confusing.
In this BustedHalo interview, Father Greg Kalscheur SJ, a Jesuit priest and assistant professor at Boston College Law School helps give our readers some perspective on John Roberts’ nomination and confirmation hearings. Father Kalscheur’s primary teaching and research interests include law and religion, constitutional law, civil procedure, Catholic social thought…

September 21st, 2005
The poor serving the poor in Nicaragua

I set off on my recent mission trip to Nicaragua with every intention of spending a week in service to poor orphans and with the hope that the encounter would deepen my relatively limited, first-world perspective on poverty. My perspective was indeed startlingly altered by my time there but in a way that was completely unexpected. My wife and I had gone to help out at Hogar Belen, a home for abandoned and disabled children, and found ourselves instead assisiting the orphanage in their outreach to those even less fortunate than themselves.
An orphanage helping the poor…? I thought the orphans were the poor.
Twice a month the staff of Hogar Belen, heads to the city dump to hand out food. The orphanage itself is…

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