Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
February 9th, 2004
George W. Bush Says God Chose Him to Be President

A man set apart by God
When George W. Bush was governor of Texas and decided to run for president, he described his decision in terms of a divine mandate: He had been “called,” a phrase that evokes the prophetic commissions of the Hebrew Scriptures. He summoned to the governor’s mansion all the leading pastors of the region to carry out a ritual of “laying on of hands,” a practice that corresponds above all to priestly or ministerial ordination.
His premonition of his presidential role during a national disaster was documented in a new book by Christian author Stephen Mansfield, The Faith of George W. Bush. Bush said to James Robinson: ‘I feel like God wants me to run for President.…

February 8th, 2004
Making sense of a milestone

On a recent Saturday night, my husband and I went to a concert for an Irish punk band he had been following for over half a decade. We arrived at Columbus ‘ PromoWest Pavilion at 10:15pm, a deliberate move to bypass the opening acts. I stood on a bench behind Jim in the back of the dark, cavernous room, quietly grooving as I looked out over the luminous mass of sweating, moshing, grinding twentysomethings. As I checked out the shoulder tats and lingerie-and-jeans ensembles, with absolutely no desire to be a part of the action, I came to a realization.
I am old. Or at least semi-old. I have just turned 30, and this milestone birthday has caused me to reflect on such things. Yes, I know that 30 is not pass-the-Ensure or…

February 6th, 2004
A Client and His Astonishing Family Tradition for Lent

Fresh out of graduate school a decade ago, I was hired as a speech pathologist for a not-for-profit agency serving the inner city poor. My therapy room contained an observation mirror so that the parents could watch and learn from my example.
Jared the poster childOne of my first clients was a five-year-old boy who had very delayed development. Jared came from a struggling urban family. He would have made the perfect poster child for poverty in America. He was charming and adorable, even in his ragged clothes. His mother was a shy woman who rarely made eye contact with me.
Jared’s little light One day in late winter, which just happened to be Ash Wednesday , I ended our speech therapy session by asking Jared to…

January 24th, 2004
For the Spiritually Curious with a Limited Budget

I boarded a bus in Washington, DC, complete with wailing children, frustrated parents, and a man be-bopping to the loud music on his earphones for the entire four-hour trip to Atlantic City—where I would change buses to ride another two hours sitting next to Mr. Be-Bop himself.
When you don’t own a car, the bus becomes a regular form of transportation that doesn’t guarantee on-time departure or arrival, clean restrooms, or air conditioning. But it always guarantees an unexpected journey that leads me exactly where I want to be. This time, my destination was a spiritual retreat…budget style.
Choose Your Own Adventure
I’ve had my fair share of budget retreat experiences—everything…

January 13th, 2004
A Catholic's Foray into the World of Buddhist Meditation

My body screamed: “I’ve only had four hours of sleep!”
But at 6:30 in the morning, some inner yearning drew me from my flannel sheets into the snowy winter morning. Looking back at last winter, I am surprised that anything could get me out of bed when it was 20 degrees outside, but I am even more surprised that—as a life-long Catholic—I woke up at 6:30 every morning to encounter God at a Buddhist Meditation Center.
Jesus didn’t head to a meditation center to commune with God. But he did take time out of his busy ministry to pray or meditate and draw closer to God. Jesus spent 40 days with God in the desert at the beginning of his ministry when “the Spirit immediately drove him out into…

January 12th, 2004

Kim Schiel remembers swimming with her Catholic friends during college and noticing a row of scabs on the upper thigh of one of the females. This female was a member of Opus Dei, a Catholic organization that encouraged her to wear a cilice, or spiked chain, around her thigh once a week to cultivate discipline and suffer like Christ. Kim, now a mother and a family physician, says, “God gives us a healthy body so we can respect it, not abuse it. There are plenty other ways to cultivate discipline.”
Although Kim decided not to join Opus Dei, more than 80,000 other Catholics around the world have committed themselves to this organization as a way to live out their faith in Christ.
So what is Opus Dei?Opus Dei,…

January 12th, 2004
Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Just READ

The turning point was not being able to find a pew without a direct view of the dead saint’s remains in that crystal coffin under the altar. The experience was so bad that I walked right out of Mass and, having no other church in my immediate area, I simply stopped going.
But other things weren’t going well either. I had been through a period of debilitating illness, had a job I detested, had recently suffered the loss of a boyfriend who I thought I might marry. Instead he moved out of the country for a new job, and I was in an unhealthy rebound relationship.
Out with Mr. Wrong, in with St. Right
Mostly in an effort to get out of rebound-ville, I decided to give the Church one last try, albeit in a parish without the…

January 8th, 2004
From sole to soul, a marathon spirituality

Many marathoners experience moments of grace on the run, but not all of their spiritual sensations are pain free. While 26.2 miles of pavement give plenty of opportunities for spiritual highs and physical adrenaline rushes, these moments are often punctuated by aching joints, bleeding blisters, black and blue toenails, and a long list of other possible bizarre afflictions. Three-time marathoner Mike Schmiedeler says that even though bodily awareness and spiritual highs can take the form of pain, he relishes the raw sensation. “You feel the most alive when you feel the worst,” said the 31-year-old Chicago television producer. “When I’m at mile 26 I feel like I’m so tired…

January 7th, 2004
The Dire Consequences of Rigid Religion

Election year 2004 is upon us. As the news media starts to drop other stories and the frenzy begins, the idea of what important news we may miss due to this political preoccupation gives me pause.
What aren’t we hearing about that’s more important than the latest round of endorsements?
A different election year
One storythat fell through the cracks during the 2000 election debacle hit close to home for me.
Lost among the recounts and court battles of November 2000, I had to do a fair amount of online digging to even pull up the local press coverage, finally unearthing a headline at the Kansas City Star web site: “Northland church grieves deaths of pastor’s wife, daughter.“
The write-up…

January 5th, 2004
The difference between who we admire and who we become

A friend of mine who teaches ethics and spirituality to MBA and law students often engages his students in this exercise. List the names of people you really admire. Next, list the names of people who you devote most of your time, energy, and resources trying to be more like.
Usually, people like Mother Teresa, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Buddha, St, Francis and Jesus show up on the first list. But for the second list, students likely name the latest CEO with a best seller on leadership, their firm’s biggest rainmaker, the hottest movie star they can think of.
erhaps, my friend suggests, this is the reason more of us are not joyful and fulfilled in our lives, because we do not spend our time and energy trying to become…

December 30th, 2003
Prayer and Crowd Control at Mother Teresa's Beatification

The Vatican is the smallest country in the world. Until recently, I always thought of that fact as a neat bit of trivia and nothing more—kind of a, “Take that, Luxembourg!” A few weeks ago, as I stood shoulder-to-shoulder in St. Peter’s Square with 300,000 other people, I felt like I was indeed in a very small country.
I felt honored to be in attendance as our Pope, a man I consider a living saint, sent a woman who had been a living saint in our lifetime—Mother Teresa—on the road to official sainthood. It was a sacred event.
… which is why I really could not understand why a little Polish woman was elbowing me in the gut.
300,000′s a crowdThe crowd’s actions that day surprised…

December 28th, 2003

I remember building a snowman in my backyard with my older sister when I was about 5 years old. It was there that snow became the great equalizer. While she piled together the bottom third of our snowman, I took the opportunity to plot my big moment of revenge for all the times I was too little to be noticed.
I packed together a small mound of snow in my tiny five-year-old fingers and slowly approached the victim prowler-like, slowly and deliberately. With her back turned away, in the perfect kneeling position, she was now exactly my height—and busily packing the snow. I quickly arrived at the glorious summit of Mt. Kathy and (WHOMPF) smushed the snowball right in her face, a direct hit! A blow for the munchkins! I screamed…

December 17th, 2003
A Job Search That Wouldn't Come to Term

Countless rejection letters… I started losing hope, and gaining weight.
For several years I had worked as a campus minister at the University of Oregon in Eugene. The college town was the right size and pace for me. The Newman Center community was life-giving and filled me with energy. Great job, great location… but time goes by and a change is necessary. This would mean relocation, and I had known it would take some time to make it happen. But this long?
Preparation time
It had been a challenge preparing for an eventual departure whose time was kept hidden (even to me). I had worked to enable volunteers to handle my responsibilities, made provisions for different possibilities, shared resources.
I even…

December 12th, 2003
J.R.R. Tolkien's Work and his Catholic Faith

When he was eight, his mother had to go back to work to support her children when an Anglican relative withheld financial support because of her conversion to Catholicism. (The establishment in England at this time was prejudiced against “popery” to an extent scarcely conceivable today.)
The martyrFour years later, his mother—overworked and worn out from poverty and the emotional pressures of family members who continued to criticize her conversion—lapsed into a diabetic coma and died in six days.
The boy was left in the care of Fr. Francis Morgan, a priest appointed by the mother to act as guardian.
This orphan: J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
Two obsessions…

December 8th, 2003
Whoever She Is, Mary Magdalene Still Matters

I have learned the six magic words that will wake up any high school religion class:
“Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute.”
Every year I get the same strong reaction from my students to this simple truth.

“But wasn’t she the woman caught in adultery?”
“My religion teacher said she was the sinner who washed Jesus’ feet with perfume.”
“How can you say that when the movies portray her as a prostitute?”

It seems that popular culture has more authority than the Bible.
Mary Magdalene in the BibleWhen I point out that Scripture says nothing about Mary Magdalene being a sinner, invariably a student will claim that I can’t prove that she wasn’t…

December 1st, 2003
My Love-Hate Affair with the Winter

I am standing at my kitchen sink, gazing out the window as the afternoon sun dissolves into the sky. I am supposed to be peeling potatoes for supper but I can’t stop watching the sunset—or the way there is no sunset, really, but only a dreary washing out of color, daylight fading into grayness. So why am I transfixed?
It seems it’s been this way for months, dark at five p.m., the ground covered in a tired layer of snow, though it’s only November.
F.S.C.S.—Future Snowbirds of Canada SocietyI have no patience for winter anymore. I’m so tired of slipping on sidewalks, of bundling kids into parkas and listening to weather forecasters go on about how exposed skin will freeze in thirty seconds.…

November 29th, 2003
A 1980's AIDS Volunteer and Activist on Angels in America

Separating life from art can be impossible in some cases; Angels in America is the most painful instance I know.
Now that the award-winning Broadway play has been superbly translated to TV by the playwright, Tony Kushner, and director Michael Nichols, that work of separation has become even more difficult for me, and will be for others. (Angels is running on HBO in two
parts: Sunday, December 7 and the following Sunday, December 14.) I recommend it heartily to viewers, not only as a great work of art but as an introduction to a time just passed in which people fought for survival and for justice on the streets and in the places in which now another generation lives—sometimes unaware of what went on there not so long…

November 29th, 2003
A Stowaway Computer and the Mellower Me

My computer died, taking my last article—a tirade on the prevalence of thongs and stilettos in everyday women’s wear—with it.
The PC that came to dinnerIt’s a good thing I’ve been storing a friend’s computer and stand in my apartment for almost the past year. It wasn’t supposed to be for that long but one month led to two, then to four and six and now eleven.
It sits in the bedroom of my crowded Manhattan apartment, and I alternatively forget it’s there and then notice it, cursing it’s owner for dumping it on me with a year’s worth of promises of its eventual removal. Finally it’s come in handy.
But I’m still pissed off that it’s here at all.…

November 29th, 2003
Depression and Its Bleak, Sometimes Even Suicidal Perspectives

During September and October of 2003 three different NYU students committed suicide, all by jumping from upper floors. Here in Bangalore in November, a fifteen year-old girl killed herself.
Most of us probably know someone who’s taken his or her own life. And we’ve all heard of high-profile artists and performers committing suicide, people like the rocker Kurt Cobain or the American poet Sylvia Plath.
Why would anyone want to take their own life? It’s a difficult question to answer. Yet maybe you would too, if you felt compelled to end the unbearable pain and anguish you were suffering. These feelings (pain, anguish, and despair) in unbearable proportions are usually associated with people…

November 2nd, 2003
Nagging Doubts about Latin America's Famous Revolutionary

Does Cuba’s revolutionary and pop icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara truly inspire those of us working for peace and justice in the 21st century?
A recent photo exhibit in East Los Angeles suggests yes, but I’ve got nagging doubts.
The photos depict moments from those historic heady days when Fidel Castro, Che, and a small army of Cuban revolutionaries overthrew corrupt (and U.S.-backed) dictator Fulgencio Batista and installed Cuban-style communism on the tiny island.
The Argentine Robin Hood
For many Latinos in North and South America guerilla leader Che is a symbol of fighting Yanqui Imperialism and winning. He represents Latin America’s Robin Hood, overthrowing the rich to…

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