NPR reports on the controversial new “Buddha Bar” of Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, the name of which sparked a letter-writing campaign among Buddhists in Hawaii, who asked how Christians “would feel about seeing a ‘Jesus Bar.’” Mary Kaye Ritz, of The Honolulu Advertiser, adds that the bar’s owner is reconsidering its name after the protests raised by the Hawai’i Association of International Buddhists and a warning from the Honolulu Liquor Commission.

Hugh Graham reports for the new Canadian glossy The Walrus on Iran’s “great game” with the clerics of Iraq. Everybody, it seems, wants a piece of Moqtada al-Sadr — and everyone, even Iran’s most hardline theocrats, is finding that he’s harder to handle than they imagined.

“There are more secular humanists than there are observant Jews or Muslims — but one would never know it from the makeup of supposedly ecumenical civic rituals that are ecumenical only for those who believe, to paraphrase Bush, that God is at the helm of our country.” Susan Jacoby writes on the exclusionary equation of religion with patriotism, and notes a recent religious identification survey that found more than 14% of Americans — a larger minority than any non-Christian group — describe themselves as “entirely or predominantly secular.” Read more.

A new documentary on President Bush, George W. Bush: Faith in the White House, is due to be released shortly. The documentary’s producer David W. Balsiger explains his slightly bewildering motivation for making the film: to reveal a side of President Bush never reported by the news media. That is, Bush’s religious side. The non-shocker, which promises interviews with “people who have encountered Bush in a faith-based way,” will be released first on DVD, then on network TV next month and possibly in theaters towards the end of the year. Read more.

Uwe Siemon-Netto of United Press International can’t conceive of a “more feminine, loving atmosphere than that of Lourdes.” Dedicated to the virgin Mary, it’s “much in keeping with the attributes of the woman ‘who in her deepest and original being exists “for the other,”‘” And the majority of its pilgrims are women — good women — nuns, the sick, housewives, “cheerful Irish and German singles.” Not a suit in the bunch, and this is as it should be, Siemon-Netto argues, finding a defense for Cardinal Ratzinger’s recent attack on feminism in Pope John Paul II’s journey to this most feminine of holy spots.

There’s nothing religious about Frank Schaeffer‘s furious denunciation of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 – except for its location within the pages of the latest issue of Christianity TodayChristianity Today is the flagship magazine of evangelical America, a smart, polished production that often covers the news of the day with more depth than secular magazines likeTime or Newsweek. So why is it tacitly equating its Christian perspective with factually dubious Moore-bashing? It’d be one thing if Schaeffer based his attack on theological grounds; but absent that, and by virtue of its appearence in CT, it comes off as religious nationalism – an embarrassment to an otherwise excellent magazine and a distortion of Schaeffer’s argument.