The Baptists in Iraq are getting antsy about the U.S. invasion, but not because the crusade isn’t going according to plan. Rather, these Baptists, members of one of the world’s oldest monotheistic traditions, are waiting for the American occupiers to move out of Saddam’s palace so they can restore the Tigris tributary over which it looms, in which they baptize themselves not once but before and after important occasions, and every Sunday. Sheikh Khaldun, a leader of the sect — known as the Sabaean Mandaeans, “compared touching water to ‘touching God,’” reports Tod Robberson in The Dallas Morning News.

The Mandaeans, who call themselves “cousins” to Christians, claim John the Baptist as their last prophet, revere water much the way some traditions loved the sun, and haven’t allowed a convert to the faith in nearly 2,000 years, turning away one of the last would-be Mandaeans, a scholar named Elizabeth Drower (about whom nothing is available online, but for this intriguing tidbit that suggests the Mandaeans had some kind of eucharist before Christianity).

The Mandaeans maintain a website of their own, but it’s in Arabic — except for the titles in the “entertainment” section, which point to perplexing connections between the ancient faith and Jennifer Lopez and Eminem.

Robberson’s report, and the Mandaeans’ peculiar website, are reminders that while what’s in a name matters, very different creatures often wear the same mantle. Which is a case being made by the other Baptists obsessed with sexy celebs (and how to keep them out of Superbowl halftime shows), those of the Southern varietyJohn Blake of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that they’re poised to make a break from the 47-million-strong World Baptist Alliance because they no longer consider its other members “like-minded believers.” The difference? “Anti-Americanism,” which, apparently, ranks even higher than God as a chief concern from some Southern Baptist leaders. “In a world full of terrorists and extremists, we do not have time to play religious games,” the Rev. Jack Graham, convention prez, told the press.

No religious games? What about traditional Baptist water sports?