Ashcroft & Evans To Pursue Solo Projects; Rummy Still With the Band
John Ashcroft is done. So is Secretary of Commerce Don Evans. The left can be expected to crow about Ashcroft’s departure and ignore that of Evans — even though Ashcroft was never close to the President and is a member of the Assemblies of God denomination and thus responsible to some kind of community. Evans, on the other hand, is the man most responsible for Bush’smagical religion. It was Evans who introduced Bush to Community Bible Study, the EST-like approach to Christianity that involves doing what you want and never having to feel bad again…
Dangerous Prayers?
Last week, a coalition group of labor and human rights activists/”prayer warriors” led a prayer session protest against a Nigerian ministry accused of ignoring union demands. The prayer warrior-workers, who were both Christian and Muslim, followed Mallam Abdullahi Danja Yahaya, the coalition chairman who described himself as a “dead man,” to occupy the ministry’s office block and parking lot with 40 minutes of “Dangerous prayers” and speaking in tongues.
Violence in the Netherlands
In the most severe instance of recent anti-Muslim violence in the Netherlands, a Dutch Muslim elementary school was damaged by a bomb Monday. The attack is likely retaliation for last week’s murder of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who had been critical of conservative Muslims and whose killer is suspected to be a militant Muslim. Van Gogh’s funeral is Tuesday, which Craig S. Smith of The New York Times notes, is also the anniversary ofKristallnacht: the 1938 “Night of Broken Glass,” when rioting Nazis looted and burned many thousands of Jewish businesses and synagogues, killed 96 Jews and sent 30,000 others to concentration camps. The anniversary, Smith writes, has traditionally inspired anti-immigration attacks in Europe.
The Stem-Cell Revolt
“Much as the emergence of ‘partial-birth’ abortions changed the political debate about abortion in a way that made ‘pro-choice’ absolutists seem unreasonable, the stem-cell issue pushes the extremes of the ‘pro-life’ position.” Peter S. Canellos of The Boston Globe sees the victory of California’s stem-cell ballot initiative as a rebuke to Bush’s efforts to tie religion to government-funded science, and envisions a “stem-cell revolt” that could eventually expose the price of faith-based politics.
Worst. Cult. Ever.
An unnamed cult of German immigrants with ties to Chile’s military dictatorship has broken decades of isolation in the aftermath of a child sex-abuse scandal involving their leader: WWII German army nurse, Paul Schafer, whose followers believed him to be God. In the 1960s, the 280-person group followed Schafer to Chile, where they read a Bible cleansed of any references to love or sex, normal intimacy and family contact was banned, and followers worked a communal farm while singing German folk songs, wearing 1930s Bavarian peasant garb, and taunting local police with Nazi salutes. The group is believed to have helped Pinochet’s secret police maintain a rule of terror by providing torture chambers for political prisoners.
Dawkins’ Evolutionary Tales
“From Plato to Nato”: Biologist Richard Dawkins on The Brian Lehrer Show now to discuss “a history of evolution in the form of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.”
Not Your Pilgrim’s Puritanism
It’s not fascism, silly; it’s 17th century old world Puritanism. The Guardian’s George Monbiot sees antecedents to Bush’s U.S. in European Puritanism, an English simplification of Calvinism which attracted the nouveau riche by forging a new theology that justified commerce as the glorification of God; reversed traditional Christian virtues to consider poverty a moral failure and wealth the blessed reward of energy and will; encouraged an “administrative nihilism” (or “small state”) view of government because, with the Puritanical emphasis on an individual relationship with God, “society, of the kind perceived and protected by the medieval church, becomes redundant”; and promoted the belief that “‘the world exists not to be enjoyed, but to be conquered,'” and that “‘Only its conqueror deserves the name of Christian.'” Monbiot mentions a recent historical novel about a Puritan revolution in the 1630s, which, in this context, “has the force of a parable” in its fixation with terrorists (Irish and Jesuit, in this case), homosexuals and sexual licencentiousness, vicious moralizing, and scorn for public support of the poor. “Swap the black suits for grey ones,” Monbiot writes, “and the characters could have walked out of Bush’s America.” So when’s the witch hunt?
God of Gaza
In what seems a literal take on Avirama Golan’s description of life lived in the shadow of catastrophe and God’s hands, an Israeli settler family in the Gaza strip is crediting God with saving their baby after an Arab mortar directly hit their home.
God and Community Service at UW
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is considering changing their community servicerequirement — 30 hours of volunteer work students must complete before graduating — to disqualify certain types of religious activities such as recruiting, preaching or volunteer projects that require religious membership.
Hard Call in Falluja

Embedded with the Marines attacking Falluja, The NYT‘s Dexter Filkins reports: “For a time, this frightening urban battlefield became a pulsing cacophony of strange and deadly sounds. The mosques in the city broadcast calls to jihad through their speakers.” We’ve no reason to doubt Filkins, except this: experienced war correspondent Pamela Constable (Washington Post) reported the exact same thing last time the U.S. attacked Falluja, and tells us that she was later embarrassed to learn that mosque broadcasts — “translated” for her by her U.S. military translator — were actually calls for ambulances.