Busted Halo
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November 9th, 2006
Catholic NO-It-Alls

I don’t often show it, but I’m a bit of a political animal.
In college, I majored in political science with a primary concentration in American politics alongside an independent study of the internal machinery of the church. For a long time, campaign season meant high-gear; I worked on races at all levels and on both sides of the aisle, ending up as a mix of strategist, spokesman or campaign manager on a smattering of local contests.
But somewhere along the way, something changed. I became frustrated with the guts of the process: the wordy statements that really said nothing, the ceaseless clawing of fund-raising and, most of all, the hollow superficiality, depraved tactics and poisonous polarization…

November 9th, 2006
Faith, doubt and the midterm elections. A conversation with the author of The Conservative Soul.

I was a Catholic in a Protestant country.
I was a gay boy in the Catholic church.
I’m now an immigrant English person who came and made his life in America.
I’m a conservative at war with the Republican party.

Ahhh…and you thought your life was complicated?
As the quote above makes clear, Andrew Sullivan resists easy categorization. Ever since rising to prominence in the early 90s as the outspoken editor of The New Republic, the author/pundit/blogger/public intellectual has been a provocative voice in the rough and tumble arena of political, cultural and religious thought.
In his essays for Time or the constant commentary he publishes on his enormously popular blog “The Daily Dish”…

November 8th, 2006
Pure Sex, Pure Love

I’ve been really busy recently. I’ve been dashing into church 10 minutes late because I had to send “just one more email.” During Mass, I’ve been thinking about work rather than paying attention to the homilies. And back home in the evenings, I haven’t been writing in my journal—my most precious form of prayer—because I’m working up until the last possible moment when I have to finally go to sleep.
With good things happening in my career and personal life, this is one of the most exciting and successful times I’ve ever experienced. Yet I feel very far away from God.
Do prayer, meditation and conversation with God fall by the wayside as we go-go-go…

October 30th, 2006
This Halloween Modern Satanists are just asking for a little understanding

Syn Holliday is a family man with three young children, a loving wife and a suburban home next door to a devout Mormon family his children regularly play with. He’s also a Satanist.
Holliday leads one of the largest satanic covens in the Los Angeles area, the Syndicate of the Five Points. Donning dark clothing and an inverted pentagram around his neck, Holliday explains in his comfortable tract-home living room, not too far from his satanic altar, that a lot of the religious parents in his conservative community even allow their children to spend the night with his children in his home. “We respect their beliefs, and they respect ours,” says Holliday. (Like most of the Modern Satanists interviewed…

October 27th, 2006
Love is in the Air

The save-the-date cards are rolling in with a frequency usually reserved for bills (this weekend, I’ll be at the third family wedding of the year). Many of my friends are excitedly hinting at engagements and the rest of them have something to show for their many nights spent out on the “scouting tour.” A priest-friend of mine in the missions just presided at his parish’s first wedding since the early 1930s and, closer to home, BustedHalo’s own Dr. Christine Whelan has hit it big in the States with her new book, Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women.
As the saying goes, love is in the air.
But if that’s true then I must be either hermetically sealed off from it or on an oxygen tank.
Embedded…

October 26th, 2006
A Catholic Ride Through America's Evangelical Landscape: by Peter Feuerherd

Visit Jerusalem in Orlando! Journey into the Sinai Wilderness! Expect to be inspired! These are some of the many exclamations splashed across the Web site for The Holy Land Experience, a Florida theme park advertised as “Orlando’s most inspiring destination.” This Holy Land facsimile, dotted with such sites as “The Dead Sea Qumran Caves,” “Calvary’s Garden Tomb” and the “Jerusalem Street Market,” is the locus, literally and figuratively, for author Peter Feuerherd’s introduction to the growing public influence of two religious groups in America: Catholics and Evangelicals. “This center of evangelical kitsch next to…

October 19th, 2006
Some of the Church's very best people did some very bad things. A conversation with author Thomas J. Craughwell.

Many Christians are familiar with the virtues of St. Mary of Egypt, who lived in the desert as a hermit for 47 years, devoting herself to God in prayer and meditation. But even the most devout Catholic might be forgiven for not knowing that, before her conversion, Mary had a wild hare that would make even Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan blush.

Mary was a seductress extraordinaire, who spent 17 years insatiably prowling the streets for sexual conquests. One day, she spotted a crowd of men—pilgrims, it turned out—waiting to board a ship bound for the Holy Land, where they planned to celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. Mary knew a party when she saw one, so she joined the voyage,…

October 13th, 2006
The Punk Priest

At first, clicking onto Fr. Bob Lubic’s website seems like a relatively conventional Catholic experience in the internet age. The sublime sound of Gregorian chant wafts from the computer and a photo of the Western Pennsylvania priest clad in Mass vestments fills the screen.
But then, out of nowhere, the sound of a scratching record signals that things might not be exactly as they seem. Suddenly, Lubic’s image transforms into that of an Ozzfest concertgoer and the music leaps into a ska-punk version of “Here I Am, Lord” more reminiscent of Goldfinger’s “Here In Your Bedroom” than anything you’d expect to hear on Sunday morning at the local parish.
Rare
To…

October 12th, 2006
Deliver Us From Evil is a troubling documentary on a number of levels

In the elevator riding up to a screening of the documentary Deliver Us From Evil, a fellow attendee, his voice the dictionary definition of sarcasm, asked, “So, ready for a great movie about Catholicism?” I stared blankly at him and wished I were a Methodist.
Here we go again.
Deliver Us From Evil centers on Oliver O’Grady, a laicized California priest and convicted sex offender, three of his victims, and the local church leaders who allegedly transferred him from parish to parish while knowing of prior accusations against him. One of those leaders happens to be Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who served as bishop of Stockton, O’Grady’s former diocese, from 1980 to 1985.…

October 6th, 2006
The Franciscan Friar from the Bronx talks about the release of his third rap album

Chances are while you were having a cup of coffee this morning Fr. Stan Fortuna had already produced a new DVD, written a chapter for a book and recorded some new songs for an upcoming cd—depending on his mood it could’ve be jazz, Brazilian, hip hop or any number of the many styles of music he’s worked in over the past 20 years.
Don’t worry, it’s not that you’re necessarily lazy it’s just that the “rappin’ Capuchin” as he is known to some is an unstoppable force of nature. Now in his late forties, Fortuna has the energy of someone decades younger. He speaks in an exuberant, non-stop, New York-ese that you’d expect to hear waiting in line outside…

October 4th, 2006
The feast of St. Francis and the blessing of the animals

CNS Photo
Americans love their pets. More than 63 million households have one and the numbers are on the rise. We take our animal companions on walks, to the beach and on family trips. But have you ever taken your pet to church?
October 4th is the feast of St. Francis. On this day, Catholics across the globe carry their pets to church as part of the traditional blessing of the animals.
Franciscan Brother Joseph Wood notes “it is believed that it was not St. Francis, but Anthony of the Desert” who originally began the tradition of animal blessings in the first or second century in Italy. He said it was only centuries later that the Church changed the ritual to the feast of St. Francis.
Wild Thing
St. Francis was…

October 1st, 2006
One of the most important whistle-blowers of the 20th century urges current Pentagon employees not to make the same mistakes he did.

He was a Harvard-educated PhD whose star was on the rise in Washington, a trusted adviser to several administrations with access to highly confidential information. All of that changed on June 13, 1971 when the New York Times published the first installment of a classified 7000-page document dealing with the war in Vietnam that later became known as “The Pentagon Papers.”
Daniel Ellsberg was the source of the leak that exposed the deliberate deception that several presidents had engaged in regarding our involvement in Vietnam. President Nixon was so incensed by the revelation that he blocked publication of the document until the Supreme Court intervened and ruled against him.
Ellsberg’s…

October 1st, 2006
A private Yom Kippur

Now that I live in North Carolina, I find myself explaining a lot. I grew up Jewish in New York, a place where it’s equally likely to hear someone saying oy vey when a subway door closes on them as it is to hear them mutter a four letter word.
But in North Carolina, things are different. About a month after I had moved here last year, the Jewish High Holidays came around. And I had to explain. The concept of Rosh Hashanah is pretty easy: it’s the Jewish New Year, just instead of popping open champagne and attending expensive parties, we dip apples in honey, say some prayers, and make our relatives feel guilty for missing the evening trip to temple. Yom Kippur is a little more difficult: it’s a day of atonement.…

September 29th, 2006
Turning Inside Out

As time goes on, and this column keeps evolving, I’ve found something interesting. For once, I hope I’m wrong on this one but, just in case, let me clue you in on what I’ve been thinking.
“Almost Holy” was conceived as a bridge between the ad extra (outside the church) audience of “spiritual seekers” for whom BustedHalo exists and the inside-baseball crowd who I seek to inform, entertain etc. on my blog, “Whispers in the Loggia.” In more ways than one, the chance to go beyond the cloistered comfort of insider-dom and put together some observations from the intersection of the Church and the World was a natural fit; I’ve spent most of my life at that…

September 29th, 2006
Slayer's new album confronts America's religious hypocrisy

In recent years I have found that I do not recognize many names on the Billboard music charts. Perhaps this is a sign I am getting older and less connected with what is “hot” right now but—to borrow a line from This is Spinal Tap—I prefer to think that my musical tastes have gotten a bit more “selective.”
In either case, I was very surprised recently to see a familiar and controversial name at the top of the charts. The thrash metal band Slayer had sold enough units of their new disc, Christ Illusion (over 60,000 in the first week) to break into the top five. The cd, Slayer’s first in five years, was favorably reviewed in numerous national newspapers, including the New York…

September 28th, 2006
Spiritual Soundtrack

As I wasn’t blessed with enough talent to be one, I’ve always kept a special place in my heart for musicians. It’s part envy, of course—a friend lent me his guitar for three years, at the end of which I still couldn’t play “Happy Birthday” —but also great admiration for the way a song can capture the mind and lift the soul in a way words alone can’t.
Since I don’t get to read much for pleasure, I write for a living (i.e. sit in seclusion for most of the day) and need something beside the 13 or so cups of black coffee I drink every day to keep me going. My twin life-savers—my iPod and satellite radio—are, by necessity, never far out of reach. I’ve built…

September 22nd, 2006
Catholic-Muslim Relations in the wake of the Pope's controversial remarks

As the firestorm of reaction cools to some sentences in Pope Benedict’s talk on September 12 at Regensberg University in Germany, the questions of the hour are: What lessons can be learned, and what impact will it have on Catholic-Muslim relations at-large?
The speech was in large measure a scholarly address criticizing the West for squeezing faith out the door in its love affair with reason, science, and technology. The section relating to Islam represented only three paragraphs, and came at the outset.

Pope Benedict began by recounting a conversation that took place between a 14th century Byzantine Christian emperor and a Persian scholar. “Show me,” he quoted the emperor Manuel II Paleologus…

September 20th, 2006
My unlikely journey of faith

When I was growing up my mother constantly reminded me that “the path to God is not easy” but as the child of an atheist father and—to my mind—an overly devout mother it was advice I ignored because I had no interest in finding a path to God.
My pragmatic father negated any possibility of a Godly existence within our world, and managed to shrink Jesus down to nothing more than a historically accurate character (he had been a history professor in Poland before we moved to Canada). My mother on the other hand, tried to save me from my father’s uninspiring certainty of realism by bombarding me with parables and tales of realms of divine existence. I chose to believe neither of them.
Total…

September 14th, 2006
Busted Halo discusses the Christian music industry and the culture that birthed it with music journalist and author of Body Piercing Saved My Life, Andrew Beaujon.

Though much has changed in recent years to allow openly Christian musicians to move out of the Christian rock ghetto, it is still rare to come across a self-respecting music fan who would take the genre seriously, let alone admit to actually liking some of it. But in the pages of his entertaining and enlightening study of the Christian music industry entitled Body Piercing Saved My Life, Andrew Beaujon—contributing writer for Spin who also writes for the Washington Post and Salon—reveals this much maligned corner of the music industry to be far less monolithic (and less uniformly lame) than many outsiders realize.
Tracing the growth of the Christian music industry through the recovering hippies…

September 11th, 2006
because religion isn't the only hot-button issue

My last Pure Sex, Pure Love column bemoaned the craziness of the Bridal Registry. Instead of wasting hours, days, even months, learning about thread count and why you need a hostess set of silver, I argued that there are more important discussions brides and grooms should have as they look forward to making a life together.
While this isn’t an earth-shattering argument, you’d be amazed by how many couples would prefer to debate over throw pillows rather than talk about the big-and potentially contentious issues: How many children would you like to have? How will faith be integrated into your family life? What are each spouse’s future goals and dreams? And, of course, finances.
Hot Button #2…

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