Liberal mega-bloggers are indulging in some misplaced schadenfreude over the sad and ugly story of an Iowa Assemblies of God youth pastor charged with the sexual exploitation of a child — a 17-year-old congregant — the day after Bush introduced the man and his wife to the nation as good family values folks who’ve benefitted from his tax cut. This is petty and hypocritical — there’s no evident connection between the man’s political and religious beliefs and his possibly criminal behavior. “Family values” is vague, bullying newspeak. And the man in question may indeed be a creep, and worse. But gloating over a political pawn’s fall is just vicious — especially when the world has guys like Bill O’Reilly to kick around..
Nobody’s Monk
Imagine the sad monk’s tale behind this Craigslist posting…
Is “Christianophobia” on par with anti-Semitism and anti-Islam hatred? The Vatican has belatedly announced its diplomatic campaign seeking U.N. recognition of discrimination against and persecution of Christians. But not all Christian groups are happy with the new language, and not all of the dissenters are unhappy for the same reasons. The World Council of Churches is wary that the term encourages a conception of religious bias as “one religion against another.” Meanwhile, Alessandra Aula, of Franciscans International, fears that the term lays the groundwork for the erosion of universal human rights: “‘You will then have Sikhs and Buddhists and all the others coming and claiming rights. Where does it end?” The Reuters report identifies the Vatican campaign as “discrete” (“individually distinct”), though they mean it’s a “discreet” (“unostentatious”) campaign, largely unknown until the Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, first spoke publically of the move last Friday, announcing that the Holy See had insisted on the inclusion of “Christianophobia” in U.N. discussions of religious bias. A more substantial language problem, though, is with the term “Chistianophobia” itself. A U.N. diplomat says he didn’t “‘want any more terms ending in phobia.'” And The Revealer‘s been told by Christians, ad nauseum, that “homophobia” is an unfair term that implies mental illness on the part of the believer. They’re right, which is why we’ve limited our use of it. The use of “phobia” pathologizes biases. While some prejudice is, no doubt, the result of psychological problems, discrimination can also be rationally-based, faith-based, or just plain old bigoted.
Santa at Satan’s Grotto
A “Devil Santa” in Satan’s Grotto, at York Dungeon in England, has angered church leaders who oppose the alterna-Santa, his gifts of severed fingers and the grotto’s guestbook scroll of signed-away souls.
Davey and Goliath’s Snowboard Christmas
We’ve gotten some flak in the past when we wrote about the Christian cartoon, “Davey and Goliath’s Snowboard Adventure” (about Cristian Kid Davey Hansen and his talking dog, Goliath), so it’s with respect and goodwill that we note that the Hallmark Channel, through Faith and Values Media, will be broadcasting a new Davey and Goliath production, “Davey and Goliath’s Snowboard Christmas,” for the first time in 30 years. In the new special, the duo “‘learns some dazzling snowboard maneuvers and some very important lessons about the real meaning of Christmas.'” In between wicked shredder moves and getting into trouble, Davey will also meet a Muslim and a Jew to demonstrate the special’s “theme of oneness.”
Teaching Evolution to Tomorrow’s Creationist Science Teachers
The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss profiles David Jackson, a professor of science education at the University of Georgia’s College of Education, who teaches evolution to the next generation of middle-school educators — half of whom believe that God created the Earth 6,000 years ago. The other scientists on campus think Jackson’s “crazy,” and his science buddies tell him not to teach the creationist students, as they’re not fit for teaching. With nearly 40 states dealing with a challenge to evolution education in public schools, the science classroom is increasingly the locus of church-state warring, and Jackson, according to Strauss, straddles the divide…
“Gott Mit Uns”

We weren’t the only ones put off by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s creative Holocaust history. (Recap: Scalia implies European separation of church and state helped create the Holocaust.) Maureen Farrell, of BuzzFlash also takes the judge to task: “Does he imagine that the phrase ‘Gott mit Uns'” — “God is with us,” the belt buckle slogan for the soldiers of the Wehrmacht — “was a German clothier’s interpretation of ‘Got Milk’? If photographic evidence of the Third Reich’s Christian leanings were not enough, Hitler’s own speeches and writings prove, at the very least, that he presented many of the same faith-based arguments heard in America today. Religion in the schools? Hitler was for it. Intellectuals who practiced ‘anti-Christian, smug individualism’? According to Hitler, their days were numbered. Divine Providence’s role in shaping Germany’s ultimate victory? Who could argue? In other words, there is enough historical evidence to color Scalia deluded…”

Magnificat Meal Movement
“‘God is love and you can’t run away from him like this. We want her to come back to God and to bring the money back.'” An internal dispute over money is placing the “Magnificat Meal Movement” (MMM) back in the public spotlight. MMM is an Australian “cult” run by Debra Geileskey, and it attracted controversy in the late 90s, when Geileskey claimed to be the recieving personal messages from Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
Fervent Passions, Subtle Assumptions
Iran’s former militants are today’s journalistic reformers. “Hojatolislam Mousavi-Khoeiniha, for instance, often described as the ‘spiritual mentor’ of the hostage-takers as well as their link to Ayatollah Khomeini, founded the leading reformist daily Salam in the early 1990s,” write Bill Berkeley and Nahid Siamdoust in Columbia Journalism Review. “[I]ts editor in chief was Abbas Abdi, one of the four original conspirators in the embassy seizure. Another leader of the hostage-takers, Sa’eed Hajjarian, sometimes called the “brain of reforms,” edited the crusading reformist daily Sobh-e-Emrouz. Yet another leading hostage-taker, Ibrahim Asgharzadeh, edited the reformist daily Hambastegi.” It’s a fascinating story, especially in the wake of Mark Bowden’s more in-depth Atlantic report on the afterlives of the Iranian hostage takers (not online). But CJR deserves darts for the assumptions that run rampant throughout the piece. If a man is a “warm and gracious host,” suggest the authors, he must be “far removed” from “fervent passions.” And the whole article is squarely in service of the notion that “good” journalism promotes secular democracy. Secular democracy is fine by us; but it’s odd to see CJRinadvertently spinning what might best be understood as a “soft” neo-con line.
Ritz, Vodka, & Shmaltz

The secret to eternal life: “That evening, [Rabbi Chitrik] did not touch the cakes, nuts or Ritz crackers that were on the table along with ancient Jewish texts. There was also a bottle of vodka, and Rabbi Chitrik clasped a shot glass of it as he listened to the lively conversation and occasionally joined in the lilting Hasidic tune being hummed continuously by several rabbis.”NYT‘s Corey Kilgannon offers up a satisfyingly shmaltzy tale of Jewish life. In fairness, it should be noted that as Lubavitcher, Rabbi Chitrik is a Jewish “fundamentalist,” theologically to the right of Pat Robertson; an equivalent Christian might not receive such loving treatment. Or he might. What makes Chitrik special, besides the fact that he’s 105-years-old? He’s a great storyteller, and reporters love a good story…