Busted Halo
Features : Politics & Culture
 
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May 31st, 2006
A look inside the home schooling phenomenon and the lives of three of its practitioners

Moving from California to Guam in third grade, Rebecca Nations anticipated a new school and learning environment as she made the transition from the West Coast to the tropics. But in Guam the rows of lockers, playing fields, chalkboards, desks and cafeteria lines that she was used to in California were now replaced with the living room couch, her family’s backyard and a clear path to the refrigerator. Nations’ parents had made the switch from traditional schooling to home schooling.
Home schooling has been a phenomenon in the United States since the 1970s. Once illegal in 30 states, the practice has been permitted throughout the country since 1993. Because of various state regulations regarding…

May 22nd, 2006
Jewish-Christians at USC struggle with the effects of conversion to Christianity

David Allen’s parents wanted him to see a psychiatrist. Why? Not because he was depressed, taking drugs or getting bad grades in college but because he wanted to convert to Christianity.
Allen is one of several Jewish-Christians at the University of Southern California who belong to Chaim, a new Christian organization on USC’s campus that claims to provide an environment where Jewish students can learn more about Jesus, and Christian students more about Judaism.
Raised a reformed Jew, Allen (who requested that his real name not be used) made fun of Jesus and Christians when he was growing up, but while dating a Christian girl, he met a friend of her family who introduced him to Christianity.
That’s…

May 16th, 2006
Beware of faith-based fenders

My grandmother loved Jesus. My grandmother’s dog apparently loved Jesus. My grandmother’s car even preached about Jesus. Those are not all good things. She would drive around in her huge, red Oldsmobile with a bumper sticker that read “Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” For those of you who don’t know what that is (Heck, I’m a Christian and I had no idea what it meant), it’s one of Jesus’ little monikers, like Prince of Peace or Lamb of God. I was never quite sure what my grandmother was hoping to achieve by displaying something that ninety percent of regular Bible-reading Christians can’t decipher?
“In the interest of minimizing the number of bumper…

May 5th, 2006
Discovering the Mystery of Easter in the new documentary about Fr. Mychal Judge

CNS Photo
Last week a friend invited me to attend the world premiere of the film Saint of 9/11, a documentary that tells the story of Father Mychal Judge, Franciscan Friar, who served as chaplain to New York City Fire Department and died in service on September 11, 2001. On his death certificate, Father Judge was listed as “0001″—the first victim of 9/11.
While I knew some of the bare facts regarding his death and had seen the now-famous photograph of his body being carried, pieta-like, from the wreckage of the Twin Towers, I had no knowledge about his life prior to that terrifying disaster.
The film was a masterpiece, and I recommend it to any Catholic, any Christian, or, for that matter, anyone…

April 28th, 2006
Praiz and the soul of Christian Hip Hop

It all started with a desperate prayer from a desperate man:
Lord deliver me from myself
I’m in trouble, I need your help…
Not too long ago, Vance Watt was caught in a downward spiral of drugs, booze, violence and incarceration and he was bracing for a crash. His desperate plea was also his first step in turning toward God and eventually became the song, “Deliver Me,” a stirring call for redemption from the lifestyle he used to promote. Now, the 29-year-old married, father of three is the voice of the growing Christian hip-hop scene in St. Louis.
St. Louis Sound
Watt walked away from it all just as he was making a name as an up-and-comer in local rap and hip-hop circles, which, at the time, was…

April 28th, 2006
Skunks, semantics and the art of spin

The other day, while toting my inquisitive four-year-old daughter to preschool, our chat about contemporary political corruption was interrupted by a familiar smell. Taking a moment at a red light to peer in front of the bumper of my Subaru, I stole a glance of the culprit: freshly squashed skunk.
After casually directing my kid’s eyes to the poor beast’s mangled remains, the following dialogue ensued:
“Pee yew! What’s that smell?”
“It’s the smell a skunk makes when it leaves this earth, sweetie.”
“Why’s it leaving?”
“Well, its time had come.”
“Its time for what?”
“Uh, its time to move on, sweetie pie.…

April 17th, 2006
An interview with the author of The Collar: A Year of Striving and Faith Inside a Catholic Seminary

The Collar chronicles the journey of five men who have left their careers and former lives behind to begin formation for the Roman Catholic priesthood. In his realistic, human, and at times, gripping account of seminary life, Jonathan Englert gives a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the faith journeys of these five individuals, including a recently widowed father of four, a blind violinist, and an avid hunter from Wyoming.
Due to the shrinking population of ordained priests, a growing number of Catholics, and the aftermath of the clergy sexual abuse scandals, seminary life is a topic that promises to continue to fascinate Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
With a master’s degree in journalism from…

April 9th, 2006
BustedHalo talks with the real-life nun behind Dead Man Walking about her newest book The Death of Innocents

“We never know when grace is going to hit us” says Sister Helen Prejean at the start of our interview. The sixty-seven-year old author and activist knows what she is talking about. The woman who was propelled to the forefront in the fight against the death penalty with her best-selling book, Dead Man Walking, and the 1995 movie of the same name, never really set out to be a voice for the oppressed. She admits that the extent of her exposure to, the poor for much of her early life was confined to her mother’s urging of her to include “poor people who have no place to sleep tonight” in her bedtime prayers. Her early years in the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille were spent in the classroom, teaching…

April 7th, 2006
Colliding head-on with religion (and myself) deep in the heart of Dixie

Growing up Jewish in New York City, I had no idea that I was a member of a ridiculously small religious minority. That blithe unawareness had something to do with the relatively large number of Jews living there, obviously, but it was also connected to the secular tenor of public life in America’s most international city: religion was considered a private matter; it never came up among strangers or casual acquaintances, and certainly never in a business situation. There was a strong awareness that the other guy might well turn out to be Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or Jain, and that it was safer not to risk giving (or receiving) offense.
In 2002 I moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, and everything changed.…

April 7th, 2006
An interview with CIA veteran Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern served God and country for 27 years as a member of the CIA by keeping his work secret. Today, along with a group of other Intelligence veterans, he tells the truth about the corruption of US Intelligence gathering to anyone who will listen.
When he graduated Fordham University during the height of the Cold War, he decided to put his degree in Russian studies to use with the CIA in the fight against the “godless Communism” of the USSR. His work called him to Moscow, Germany and back to the United States. Along the way he also studied at Harvard Business School and Georgetown University. In his later years of service, he was one of two men in charge of then Vice President George H.W. Bush’s…

March 31st, 2006
An interview with the author of My Life with the Saints

Rev. James Martin–Jesuit priest and associate editor of America magazine–has written and edited numerous books on the spiritual life, including the memoir In Good Company: The Fast Track from the Corporate World to Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, chronicling his journey from the corporate subculture of General Electric to the Jesuit priesthood, and Awake My Soul: Contemporary Catholics on Traditional Devotions. News outlets like CNN and National Public Radio frequently seek Martin’s commentary on Catholic issues, and he is a popular and sought-after speaker. BustedHalo recently talked to Fr. Martin about his new book My Life with the Saints which was released at the beginning of March…

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?
Jezebel!
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:…

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