Tired of Deal Hudson? Much better Catholic writing is to be found in V.Y. Mudimbe‘s story atWords Without Borders, a terrific site that translates literature from around the world. Mudimbe’s narrator is a nun in the former nation of Zaire, circa 1978, at the brink of civil war: “I reread the Passion of our Lord according to Saint Matthew. I came away from that with an odd wish: if only our politicians could have Pilate’s hesitation! Did he tremble when, questioned about the truth of his kingship, Jesus answered him calmly: ‘Thou sayest?’ Pilate invites him to defend himself, is astonished at the victim’s silence, and bargains with the persecutors: ‘Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?’ Did he have the power to change this Passion’s course, and so the course of the history of salvation? Perhaps he perceived its inescapable character, poor man, and took refuge in neutrality. ‘What evil has he done?’ he asks. He knows the answer, too: none. He washed his hands and immediately thereafter, to save face, he had the Lord lashed with a whip. In short, the art of politics: don’t take any risks…” Read the whole story.

James K. Glassman, at The American Enterprise, is dismayed by the poor reception given to the U.S. at last month’s AIDS conference in Bangkok. The U.S., after all, “contributes twice as much money to fight AIDS globally as the rest of the world combined, and [its] drug companies developed the medicines that stopped the progression of HIV.” Instead, Glassman writes, the Bush Administration was vilified by “Europeans and Americans who think they are just as sophisticated as Europeans” for pandering to the religious Right by promoting abstinence programs. The latter, he claims, only amounts to 1/15th of the total AIDS budget, but it seems his math could use some work.

A 2000 federal law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which prohibits local land-use regulations from imposing a “substantial burden” on the exercise of religion, will soon come before the Oregon State Supreme Court. City officials in West Linn, Oregon, denied a plan to build a Mormon Church in a residential area, reports Lisa Grace Lednicer in The Oregonian, and were brought to court by the church, which claimed the city had interfered with their religious freedom.

The Philippine government is forming a “Christian-Muslim Solidarity Center” to aid the country’s fight against terrorism. Outgoing Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita explained that religious groups “have access to the field so they can cooperate with the government.” Read more.

On the 400th anniversary of the primary Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, the White House invited ten Sikhs “in the morning to be present while President Bush was to leave for Minnesota for election meeting.” President Bush reportedly waved at the Sikhs and greeted them with a thumbs up. It was the first Sikh event the White House has celebrated in 100 years.

Berlin conference on Religion and the Media: “Crossing Borders: Culture, Religions and the Media,” scheduled for October 15 to 17, will open the 2004 Prix Europe – the European festival for TV, Radio and the Internet.

Washington Post‘s Alan Cooperman gets in on the Deal (Hudson) deal with an A-6 snoozer. Why is the resignation of the Bush’s chief Catholic advisor — a position of much greater power than the governorship of New Jersey — getting so little attention? Even leaving aside the undisputed charges of profound sexual misconduct, why doesn’t this story rate? The resignation of the DNC’s religious advisor, for the crime of having supported the removal of “under God” from the pledge, won way more column inches. We’re not being rhetorical here: What gives?

Nick Coleman turns in a snarky report on a campaign revival — we mean, rally — for Bush in Minneapolis. It’s pretty funny, if perhaps unfair. But the best bit is a moment of complete earnestness, a couple of Romanians confused by Bush fans waving crosses: “‘Please tell the meaning of the crosses,’ Gabriella said. ‘We are bothered by that. Do they mean evil is coming?’ No, I said. Why do you think that? ‘Because many bad Hollywood films show crosses when evil comes.'”

Salon correspondent Phillip Robertson, inside the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf, HQ of the Mahdi Army: “‘Why does America hate poor people so much?’ That was a common refrain…” After three days with the Mahdi Army under seige in the shrine, Robertson reports news at sharp odds with the rest of the press stuck outside. But besides noting an atmosphere of religious fervor, he has little to say about the fundamentalism of the Mahdi Army. Did he miss the story? Or is the media overplaying the God card? Read more…

Boykin bonked: AP reports that Pentagon investigation finds Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin guilty of violating regulations when he gave speeches in uniform declaring his God bigger than Allah.