Busted Halo
Features : Politics & Culture
 
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August 9th, 2006
Dirty dishes, anarchist art, morning prayer and other hallmarks of a burgeoning Christian movement

They started out as good Christians. They thumbed through their Bibles, were concerned with sex and feared God. Then they started taking Christianity seriously.
“This thing Jesus called the Kingdom of God is emerging across the globe in the most unexpected places, a gentle whisper amid the chaos,” writes The Simple Way co-founder Shane Claiborne in The Irresistible Revolution, his manifesto on the movement. “The truth is that much stands in the way of God’s will for our world, beasts like what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the giant triplets of evil: racism, militarism and materialism.”
But in a broken down, post-industrial neighborhood in Philadelphia, a group of young…

August 1st, 2006
How much do you really know about Islam? Read this basic guide to find out.

Most of us hear about various Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, and Hamas without understanding what they really represent, why they have won support, and the similarities and differences between them. Similarly we hear the words Sunni and Shia to distinguish Muslims and Islamist groups from one another, but few know what they mean. The following gives a brief overview of Sunni and Shia Muslims, Islamism, and the two Islamists groups most in the news today: Hezbollah and Hamas.
Shia and Sunni Muslims
When the Prophet Muhammad died in the early 7th Century, he left the religion of Islam along with an Islamic State on the Arabian Peninsula with around one hundred thousand…

July 27th, 2006
Pro-life gays and lesbians see the fight for the unborn related to their struggle

Steve Cook flinched as a heckler hollered, “You’re a traitor to the gay community.” One of the signs Cook held read, “Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians,” and the other “Killing children never advances gay rights.” Soon others joined the chant of “Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!”
Cook was participating in the second-annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco last winter, the West Coast version of the March for Life held annually in Washington, D.C.
Cook said it was obvious that hecklers were singling him out more than the other marchers. One pro-choice protestor even yelled, “Oh, no! There’s a gay man among them.”
Cook,…

July 24th, 2006
Syd Barrett and the Saints

Syd Barrett, co-founder of the legendary rock band Pink Floyd, recently passed away at the age of 60. Barrett was a troubled soul, an amalgamation of genius and lunacy who, in the 60′s, ingested LSD like Pez candy and wrote narcotic-inspired songs that influenced thousands of musicians. Barrett’s tenure in Pink Floyd was short—he lasted only one album after which his band mates dismissed him for his crazy, erratic behavior, and replaced him with guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour. Syd spent the past 3 decades living in anonymity in England, avoiding the press and staying far away from the music business.
Despite, or perhaps due to his quasi-monastic seclusion, many rock bands continued…

July 12th, 2006
The God Factor author Cathleen Falsani talks about her spiritual conversations with celebrities ranging from Bono to Elie Wiesel

If the general rule in polite company is always to refrain from discussing politics and religion, Chicago Sun Times writer Cathleen Falsani has spent a good deal of her career blatantly violating at least half of that maxim. The company she keeps doesn’t seem to mind though. The 35-year-old has interviewed dozens of celebrities—from rock stars and authors to athletes and politicians—about their spiritual beliefs and come away with some very surprising answers.
“Inside the spiritual lives of public people” trumpets the subheading to her book The God Factor. Indeed the “God Girl,” as she’s been dubbed, convinced an eclectic group of public figures to…

June 20th, 2006
How living with a street gang led an agnostic anthropologist to faith

Thomas Ward agonized over a choice: should he cheat death by ditching his research or forge ahead and prepare to die? He decided to prepare to die.
From 1993 to 2000, Ward, a professor of anthropology at USC, spent nearly every day hanging out on street corners, back alleyways and apartment complexes with members of the legendary street gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, dubbed by Newsweek as “the fastest-growing, most violent… of the nation’s street gangs.”
Ward said he wanted to study every aspect of the Salvadoran gang: the good and the bad. And about a year into his research, he got a taste of how truly bad things could get. “The first threat occurred when I was at a party and the…

June 2nd, 2006
Busted Halo discusses faith's place in art and the public market with one of America's most adventurous singer-songwriters.

In the world of popular music there is perhaps no genre that is more suspicious of Christian faith than indie rock. Having grown out the late 70s punk movement that rejected most traditional ideologies in favor of unfettered personal expression, the independent music scene remains (at least philosophically) defined by its skepticism for mainstream culture and its outsider status in the world of corporate music conglomerates.
Quite possibly the first self-identified Christian to make significant inroads to the usually hostile scene, Sufjan Stevens has earned listeners through his meticulously crafted compositions and pointedly descriptive narratives. The ornately arranged, quasi orchestral folk-pop…

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…

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