"The only thing I hate is hatred"

tony_hendraAt The New York Times, the simple act of publishing a book review can lead to a news story. As noted on GetReligion in early June, Andrew Sullivan praised Tony Hendra’s confessional book Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul in a cover article for The New York Times Book Review. (Hendra is on the left in the photo from This is Spinal Tap.)

That review brought forward Jessica Hendra, 39, a daughter from Hendra’s first marriage, to say the book had not been nearly confessional enough and to accuse her father of molesting her during her childhood. The Times’ story is even-handed and thorough, quoting extensively from Jessica Hendra, her mother and therapists who have treated her for anorexia.

As Sullivan’s review made clear, Hendra’s salvation was a decades-long journey under the gaze of an all-loving God who has no particular trouble with nonmarital sex.

Sullivan was impressed with this passage of Father Joe’s thoughts on sex:

“Sex is a wonderful gift, a physical way to express the most powerful force in all existence — love. Sex is a brilliant idea of God’s, I think. Almost like a sacrament.”

“Sex is a sacrament?”

“D-d-don’t tell the Abbot!”

“There’s no sin in having sex?”

“Yes yes yes. There can be. But sex is a sin less often than we’re led to believe. It’s all a question of context. If you have sex to hurt or exploit another, or to take pleasure only for me, me, me, and not return as much or more to your lover . . . then it becomes sinful. . . . They’ve made sexual sins the worst sins of the lot, haven’t they? Because sex is so powerful, people are fearful of it! We must take the fear out of sex as well.”

Hendra’s website, which mostly promotes Father Joe, includes some of his recent satirical pieces for The American Prospect and Details. The TAP pieces reflect a consistent hostility toward George W. Bush, other conservative politicians, the religious right and Mel Gibson.

A few sample paragraphs:

From Osama’s Endorsement

Today the Hard Drive has a surprise for its faithful Database. Let us praise Allah a thousand, thousand times for sending us George W. Bush! After his three and half years in office, could we have dreamed of the power and visibility we now have? Assuredly not, o my brothers. Thanks to the Beelzebub Bush, we are a global brand!

How has this happened? Consider:

The crusaders are even now hotly debating whose fault the 11th of September was. Let us answer for them: We would never have attacked America during the reign of the cloven-hoofed Bill Clinton. He was too wily a diplomat; he had curried too much favor abroad; he could have whipped up European and Asian and even Arab rage, forged a lasting worldwide coalition against us, strangled us in infancy.

From ‘Bell Curve’ — Levant Version:

From an unexpected quarter comes some rare good news for embattled U.S. military commanders trying to contain the widening prison-abuse scandals in Iraq. The conservative San Diego-based scientific review No Junk Science published an article today by a team of researchers from the Adolf Coors Center for Studying Arabs at Pepperdine and the Charles Murray Institute of Eugenics at West Texas Christian University. The study presents “overwhelming evidence” that Arabs are not, by any prevailing scientific standard, human.

From We See That Now:

And yes, it’s true, just as your more sagacious radio hosts have maintained: Hillary Clinton does owe her success to the practice of witchcraft. And no, it’s not true that ridiculing Chelsea at the most vulnerable stage in her development was the media equivalent of child molestation. Chelsea Clinton was fair game because she is the spawn of Satan. Scurrilous of us to suggest that the tirelessly moderate and civil proponent of these and so many other truths, Robert Bartley, now resides in the circle of hell reserved for hate-mongers and bigots! Mr. Bartley dwells in the bosom of his Republican creator. We see that now.

From The Last Word:

The Life of Brian takes the only approach possible to such explosive material: oblique, referential, and, above all, well-informed. Brian is based on solid biblical scholarship. The Passion isn’t. Gibson has admitted as much, claiming that it’s based solely on the New Testament as interpreted by his guiding light, the Holy Spirit. (A common cop-out of film directors — blame the screenwriter.)

From Divine Words (written as a memo from Jesus Christ to Mel Gibson):

You’re no different, Mel. The Christ you flog and flay and strip the meat from, the one you chew the ears and lips of, the one you smash the nails through the helpless palms of — that’s you, Mel. Because, for all the reasons that only you and I know, you hate yourself. Self-hatred drives you as it has driven so many self-flagellators and sunken-faced self-deniers, born-again, self-loathing sinners, washed in my blood, dripping with the precious blood that flowed from the bloody gash made in my side by the holy spear — all those terrible and murderous images that sublimate the anger and savagery in their hearts. But self-hatred is still hatred, Mel, and the only thing I hate is hatred.

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Finding (first person) ghosts in a stack of newspapers at Heathrow

heathrowSitting on my office desktop is a stack of British newspaper stories full of ghosts. Some easy to see and some a bit dodgy.

The problem is that the stories really are on my desktop — my wooden desktop, instead of my computer desktop. When you try to find the digital copies of these dead-tree-pulp stories, you end up caught in a maze of fees and registration forms. This prevents me from writing about these stories and then allowing you, with a few clicks of your mouse, to explore the texts yourself for context. This is, of course, the essence of blogging, the extra layer of content provided by this strange new medium.

I wanted to write about that special joy that comes when you have a chance to sit down with a stack of newspapers and then munch your way through them at your leisure. This is what happened with me yesterday as my wife and I had a long layover in London Heathrow as we connected between Athens and Miami. People leave newspapers lying around and cheap people like me pick them up and read them. So I just ripped some up and brought home the clips in my shoulder bag.

I wanted to share some of the results in a snapshot tour of those hours. But that’s hard to do without URLs. Right?

Take, for example, that screaming headline on the front of the Tuesday issue of the Daily Mail, the one that said, “At week 12 this foetus is walking. At 15, it’s yawning. The amazing pictures from inside the womb that shine new light on the abortion debate.” This lead into a pair of two-page tabloid layouts, leading off with that familiar dilemma in modern newspaper style — when does the word “baby” come in play?

He is making the most of having room to move.

A mere 12 weeks into a pregnancy, this unborn baby is wriggling his legs in the “stepping motion” characteristic of newborns.

The amazing images, taken by a revolutionary form of ultrasound scan, show the foetus “walking” in the womb at a much earlier stage than thought possible.

The article goes on to say that these images raise legal, political and ethical questions. (To see a BBC video of this, click here.)

But the Mail never really brings up the religious questions — until you turn to page 12 and hit an anguished op-ed by commentator Stephen Glover. In it, he quickly describes the Roman Catholic Church’s stance on unborn life and contrasts its clarity with the more muddled views of the British public, which, like the American public, is all over the map on this issue.

But at some point, stresses Glover, a “foetus” turns into a “baby.” The images seem to show “little human beings” for a simple reason. “They are little human beings,” he writes. It is hard to study the photographs and believe otherwise. Thus, it is hard to do journalism and pretend otherwise. Thus, it is hard to avoid the religious, ethical and moral implications of the words and photos that newspapers do and do not use. Glover concludes (and note the word “beliefs”) that:

History tells us that good people can hold beliefs which subsequent generations think are misguided. There is a movement gathering force — of men and women, liberals and conservatives, Christians and humanists. Its credo is not so revolutionary. Why can look at these pictures of tiny foetuses yawning and walking and jumping, and be certain that abortion is not wrong?

The question for journalists is not whether Glover is right or wrong. The question is how they can cover this story without digging into these religious and moral questions about the basic building blocks of journalism — words and images.

Let’s move on into that stack of clips.

* Similar questions show up in the Thursday Daily Express in an article about the roles that social class and education play in the lives of young women who become pregnant outside of wedlock. This was linked, again, to the new scientific images of the unborn. The moral questions come up. Religious issues do not, except that they are soaked into the spaces between the lines.

* Then, in The Independent, we find a magazine feature interview with Peter Singer, billed as the “world’s most influential philosopher.” Hey, I found that one online. So you get to read that one on your own. But the ghosts are dancing right out there in the open in this piece, by atheist Johann Hari. She notes the contempt that traditional theologians hold for Singer.” This is a long quote, so hang on.

So why do they hate him? He has a simple explanation. “We are living in an incredible time of transition,” he whispers. “In the West, we have been dominated by a single tradition for 2,000 years. Now that whole tradition, the whole edifice of Judaeo-Christian morality, is terminally ill. I am trying to formulate an alternative. Some of what I say seems obscene and evil if you are still looking at it through the prism of the old morality. That’s what happens when morality shifts: people get confused and angry and disgusted.”

Singer’s moral system is called preference utilitarianism, and evolved from the 19th-century philosophy of John Stuart Mill. It sounds convoluted, but many people in the post-religious societies of Europe take its central premise for granted. It has one basic idea: to be moral, you must do whatever will most satisfy the preferences of most living things. Morality doesn’t come from heaven or the stars; it comes from giving as many of us as possible what we want and need.

This isn’t some dry academic theory. It affects the most important decisions in every person’s life. Say you are old and sick and want to die. Under the old Judaeo-Christian ethic, you have an immortal soul given to you by God, and He will reclaim it from you when He’s good and ready. Under preference utilitarianism, your preference — which harms nobody else – should be met, with a lethal injection from a friendly doctor if necessary. The scale of Singer’s intellectual ambition is staggering. He is trying to lead an ethical revolution unparalleled since paganism was beaten and banished by the Judaeo-Christian ethic. “You can’t expect such a radical shift,” he says dryly, “without a few fights.”

* I could go on, writing about that story — which newspaper was that? — on a Muslim girl using mass transit to conduct a quick tour of the emerging world of Muslim Britain, where the parents have traditional faith and the children want to dance and party (but are mad about others misunderstanding their faith). Sorry, that one is not online. Then there are vandals who are attacking religious statues — in The Times and lots of other places.

And, in The Guardian, the U.S. keeps seeking sanctions against “Arab militias” in the Sudan. Why is this issue so important?

A diverse US constituency, combining the Christian right, African-Americans and Jews, has taken an interest in the wars in Sudan.

Well, that raises some interesting questions, doesn’t it? Sorry, the ghost slipped right back into hiding.

And the big question for me, after spending those hours in the airport, is this: Why do the religion ghosts come out in the open when journalists write in first person, but hide in the wire service reports? Can’t we find a way to quote people and write about these debates in factual language? Can’t we admit that the ghosts are real? Just asking. Back to looking for more ghosts in the clips — cyber and otherwise.

Please join the hunt.

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Back in the door: GetReligion cut off in Korea?

Just back in the door from Turkey and Greece and I am way, way jet-lagged. But there is always all of that back email to triage.

I will post tomorrow with my observations of a long layover today in a London lounge, mostly spent looking for religion ghosts in all those edgy, diverse British newspapers.

But first, this just in from a reader.

If anyone else out there has ideas about how to handle these kinds of things, please let us know.

Messrs. Mattingly and LeBlanc,

I thought it might interest you to know that GetReligion.org is now censored by the South Korean government.

In an effort to keep video and images of Kim Seon-il’s beheading from entering the country, the government has shut down numerous websites including livejournal, blogspot, and typepad. Neither I nor any of your other readers in Korea have been able to read GetReligion for several days now, and this is likely to continue indefinitely.

I actually don’t know too much about the situation– pertinent websites are blocked — but I believe that http://marmot.blogs.com (which I can’t access) has more of the details. I suppose this doesn’t actually have anything to do with religion and the press (though Kim Seon-il hoped to be a missionary in Iraq), but perhaps it’s pertinent in some manner.

Also, if it’s possible for me to receive GetReligion updates via email, I’m (private email address) and sure would appreciate it.

Covertly, James Hargrave

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The heavy spin cycle

moon_crownedThursday’s religion news provided a few troubling examples of church leaders who have a less than firm grasp of reality.

First comes a report from the Salt Lake Tribune headlined “Religious leaders back Moon but Utah politicians back out” about the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s coronation ceremony in Washington.

Their support is nothing new: George Augustus Stallings not only attended the event but helped organize it. Rabbi Mordechai Waldmann of Detroit attended blew a ram’s horn during the ceremony. This was not exactly a gathering of ecumenists, but a reunion of the same leaders who gathered to honor Moon in the first place.

Even the press release from the Moon-backed Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace acknowledged that most of these religious leaders either attended the event or are long-standing Moon admirers.

The press release was entertaining, however, in the vast powers it grants to blogger John Gorenfeld:

Gorenfeld, author of reports criticizing the event that were published in Salon.com, The Gadflyer, and elsewhere, mobilized a host of blogwriters and web-based advocacy groups, who confronted each lawmaker who attended, or their staffs, portraying the event in a sinister light and questioning the participation of the congressman.

The press release includes this remark from the Rev. Carl Rawls, who’s identified only as a resident of Alabama: “Rev. Moon is not Jesus, nor does he claim to be. But he is anointed by Jesus, and is calling us all to be ‘messiahs.’” (Actually, Moon has taught that Jesus failed in his earthly mission because he, unlike Moon, never married or had children.)

At the other end of the political-theological spectrum is a report in The Daily Texan about the departure of another Episcopal congregation, St. Barnabas the Encourager, in response to General Convention’s decisions to approve an openly gay bishop and to adopt the most laisez-faire policy it has ever taken toward churches blessing gay couples.

Reporter Susan Shepherd writes that the congregation is leaving the Episcopal Church because it “does not condone certain practices or believe in the Bible as the sole instrument of salvation.”

Here is a key exchange in Shepherd’s story:

“For the past number of years, the Episcopal Church U.S.A. has been redefining itself,” Mallory said. “The specific thing that really defined what happened was that the House of Bishops, by a 4-3 ratio, refused to affirm a resolution that the Bible contains all things necessary for salvation.”

Carol Barnwell, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Texas, said she doesn’t think such a vote ever took place at the convention, held in the summer of 2003.

“This is not a church that votes [on whether] to believe in the Bible or not at General Convention,” she said.

Ah, but it does vote on whether to continue affirming the Articles of Religion, which are contained in a “historical documents” section in the back of its Book of Common Prayer,. In 2003, the House of Bishops did indeed reject a resolution from Bishop Keith Ackerman of the Diocese of Quincy (Illinois).

Later in the same story, church spokesman Dan England tell Shepherd:

“[Ordination and same-sex blessings have] not been approved by the general convention,” England said. “It’s handled now on a diocese-by-diocese basis, depending on what the diocese and bishop allow or do not allow.”

On same-sex blessings, actually, the authority now rests with congregations (a.k.a. “local faith communities”), as authorized in this portion of Resolution C051:

Resolved, That the 74th General Convention affirm the following:

. . . That we recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions.

Some bishops, of course, pledge their intention not to authorize gay blessings. Many priests will respect their bishop’s wishes. Others will not, and — unlike any time in the Episcopal Church’s history — they can now cite chapter and verse from General Convention to justify their defiance.

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Fundies Don't Read! (Creeping Fundamentalism VIII)

hall_o_fundiesAn essay by the Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser in Monday’s Guardian begins on a promising enough note: he criticizes BBC2 host Nick Page for describing Prime Minister Tony Blair as a Christian fundamentalist.

Fraser writes:

Page is right to highlight the fact that Christian fundamentalism is creeping into the heart of middle England. But to describe the prime minister as a fundamentalist is flippant nonsense that seriously misplaces the meaning of the term. Using the F-word as a generalised insult for all those with religious convictions allows the real thing to slip by unchallenged.

So far so good.

But later there is this jaw-dropping bit of provincialism:

It is no coincidence that fundamentalism flourishes in places of low literacy. The US Bible belt is not a place where books are commonly read for pleasure or enlightenment: information comes from the radio and TV. For all their emphasis on the sacred text, fundamentalists are generally unfamiliar with the culture of books.

Fraser nowhere defines the boundaries of the Bible belt, or how he has determined the reading habits of fundamentalists. GetReligion decided to conduct a quick and nonscientific survey: Consulting Amazon’s Purchase Circles to survey the great divide of cultural literacy.

Inside the Bible belt

Dallas
1. Christmas at the Ranch (Texas Heritage Series, No. 1) by Elmer Kelton, H.C. Zachry
2. The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well by Paula Larocque
3. Love Is a Wild Assault by Elithe Hamilton Kirkland
4. The Matisse Stories by A.S. Byatt
5. Plants of the Metroplex by John Howard Garrett, Howard Garrett
6. Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America by Garry Wills
7. Tales from the Dallas Cowboys by Charlie Waters, Cliff Harris
8. Lone Star Literature: From the Red River to the Rio Grande: A Texas Anthology by Don Graham (Editor), Larry McMurtry
9. The Lazy Person’s Guide to Investing: A Book for Procrastinators, the Financially Challenged, and Everyone Who Worries About Dealing With Their Money by Paul B. Farrell
10. Texas Almanac 2004-2005

Greenville, S.C.
1. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
2. How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long, David Shannon
3. The Da Vinci Code
4. Dilbert 2004 Day-to-Day Calendar by Scott Adams
5. Absolute Friends by John le Carre
6. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
7. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
8. Split Second by David Baldacci
9. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
10. The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom by Phil McGraw

Nashville
1. The Praktikos Chapters on Prayer by Evagrius Ponticus
2. Wisdom of the Celtic Saints by Edward C. Sellner, Susan McLean-Keeney
3. Gregory of Nyssa: The Life of Moses by Abraham Malherbe
4. Athanasius: The Life of Anthony and the Letter To Marcellinus by Robert C Gregg
5. Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller by Marshall Chapman
6. Celtic Spirituality by Oliver Davies, Thomas O’Loughlin
7. Discipline for Life: Getting it Right with Children
by Madelyn Swift
8. Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works, edited by G.R. Evans
9. Meister Eckhart: The Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises, and Defense, edited by Edmund Colledge, Bernard McGinn
10. The Rule of St. Benedict: In English by Benedict, et al

Springfield, Mo.
1. The Complete Far Side: 1980-1994 by Gary Larson
2. Bleachers by John Grisham
3. Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon
4. Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America by Molly Ivins, Lou Dubose
5. The Ultimate Weight Solution
6. Dude, Where’s My Country? by Michael Moore
7. The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich by David Bach
8. The Da Vinci Code
9. The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren
10. 500 Low-Carb Recipes: 500 Recipes from Snacks to Dessert That the Whole Family Will Love by Dana Carpender

Outside the Bible belt

Chicago
1. The Dog Lover’s Companion to Chicago: The Inside Scoop on Where to Take Your Dog by Margaret Littman, Phil Frank
2. Outside Magazine’s Urban Adventure: Chicago by Lynn Schnaiberg
3. Bridges of Memory: Chicago’s First Wave of Black Migration by Timuel D. Black
4. City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America by Donald L. Miller
5. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
6. Chicago Then and Now by Elizabeth McNulty
7. Chicago 2004 Calendar by Ron Schramm
8. Christmas at the New Yorker: Stories, Poems, Humor, and Art
9. Bronzeville: Black Chicago in Pictures, 1941-1943 by Maren Stange, International Center of Photography
10. A Guy’s Gotta Eat: The Regular Guy’s Guide to Eating Smart by Russ Klettke, Deanna Conte

New Hyde Park, N.Y.
1. Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
2. The Amateur Marriage: A Novel by Anne Tyler
3. The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss by Arthur Agatston
4. The Da Vinci Code
5. The Five People You Meet in Heaven
6. The Ultimate Weight Solution
7. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
8. Deception Point by Dan Brown
9. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
10. Dude, Where’s My Country?

Portland
1. The Way We Cook: Recipes from the New American Kitchen by Sheryl Julian, et al
2. Wild & Scenic Oregon 2004 Calendar by Terry Donnelly, Mary Liz Austin
3. Oregon Geographic Names by Lewis McArthur
4. Wildwood: Cooking from the Source in the Pacific Northwest by Cory Schreiber, et al
5. Living Faith Day by Day: How the Sacred Rules of Monastic Traditions Can Help You Live Spiritually in the Modern World by Debra K. Farrington
6. eat.shop.portland. by Kaie Wellman
7. Living in the Presence: Spiritual Exercises to Open Our Lives to the Awareness of God by Tilden H. Edwards
8. B Is for Beaver: An Oregon Alphabet by Marie Smith, Roland Smith
9. Flora: A Gardener’s Encyclopedia by Sean Hogan
10. What’s for Dinner: 200 Delicious Recipes That Work Every Time by Maryana Vollstedt

Washington, D.C.
1. Antarctica: Journey to the Pole by Peter Lerangis
2. Capital Losses: A Cultural History of Washington’s Destroyed Buildings by James M. Goode, Richard Longstreth
3. Best Addresses: A Century of Washington’s Distinguished Apartment Houses by James M. Goode, et al
4. The X-President by Philip E. Baruth
5. The Georgetown Ladies’ Social Club: Power, Passion, and Politics in the Nation’s Capital by C. David Heymann
6. Sugarloaf: The Mountain’s History, Geology and Natural Lore by Melanie Choukas-Bradley, Tina Thieme Brown
7. Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell
8. The People’s Catechism: Catholic Faith for Adults by Raymond Lucker, et al
9. Tommy the Cork: Washington’s Ultimate Insider from Roosevelt to Reagan by David McKean
10. One Fish, Two Fish, Crawfish, Bluefish: The Smithsonian Sustainable Seafood Cookbook by Carole C. Baldwin, et al

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The church doctor is in

steinkeRichard Dujardin of the Province Journal reported Sunday (free registration required) about a Lutheran pastor trained by a rabbi who is helping address conflicts between an Episcopal bishop and her priests.

That’s not the beginning of a joke, but the description of Peter Steinke’s vocation. Steinke is a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is a consultant to ELCA’s Presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson. He studied under the late Edwin H. Friedman, a rabbi who shaped hundreds of clergy. (In a tribute published by the Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute, the Rev. William McD. Tully of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church cited a grateful pastor’s bumper sticker: “Jesus saved my soul. Rabbi Friedman saved my ass.”)

Steinke has helped not only Episcopalians in Rhode Island, but also the predominantly gay Cathedral of Hope (Metropolitan Community Church) in Dallas and Mennonites in the Chicago suburbs. (The photo by Jim Bishop shows Steinke teaching a class at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, Va.)

Like his mentor, Steinke applies theories of family systems to the relations of believers, whether at congregational or higher levels. Although Steinke’s name often appears in relation to churches in crisis, he’s also written nine books — not all related to church conflicts.

In a 1997 interview with Leadership Journal (subscription required), he stressed that conflict is not a problem in itself:

For any system to be healthy, it has to be challenged; sometimes that challenge comes in the form of conflict. A healthy congregation is one that actively and responsibly addresses or heals its disturbances. It is not one with an absence of trouble.

If you’re a leader and your people say it’s time for a visit from Peter Steinke, your redemption (or at least your butt’s redemption) may draw nigh.

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A disgruntled cathedral dean! Charges of racism! Rumors of HIV?

jay_walker.jpgJohn Rather of The New York Times has written an intriguing roundup about the protracted conflict between Bishop Orris G. “Jay” Walker of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island and some of his clergy. (I apologize that the story is now available only in the Times’ electronic archives.)

Walker survived a national controversy beginning in late 1996, when Penthouse magazine accused Lloyd Andries, a priest in Walker’s diocese, of being sexually involved in a sex ring with young Brazilian men. An investigation by church leaders concluded that most of the allegations in the article were untrue or unproven, although it confirmed that Andries was sexually involved with two Brazilian men who told their story to writer Rudy Maxa.

The latest battle involves what religion writers might expect when a bishop fires a priest: charges of abused power, racism, indignation on both sides — and rumors of an HIV-positive bishop. Say what?

Rather eases that bombshell into the story through Diane Porter, a former employee of the Episcopal Church’s national headquarters who now works for the diocese and defends Walker vigorously:

Ms. Porter said remarks about Bishop Walker’s health, including his alcoholism and what she said was an oft-repeated rumor that he was H.I.V.-positive, were “sour grapes.”

“You try being a 61-year-old black man in the United States of America with some authority,” she said. “Your authority is constantly being challenged having to deal with issues of white privilege all the time. I am a black woman, so I have had plenty of experience with it.”

Bishop Walker said he had publicly acknowledged that he had a problem with alcohol and had been in a program offered by Alcoholics Anonymous. He declined to comment on whether he was H.I.V.-positive.

Most of Rather’s story focuses on the conflict between Walker and the Very Rev. James J. Cardone, from whom Walker demanded a resignation as dean of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City. The bishop made his demand on June 10, only two weeks after the death of Cardone’s 22-year-old son:

The dean was also in mourning for his son, Petty Officer Second Class Benjamin J. Cardone, 22, who died only a month before Bishop Walker’s surprise announcement on June 10. The son was serving on a Navy frigate stationed in Japan; his death is being investigated as a possible suicide.

Last week, as some parishioners called upon him to reconsider, Bishop Walker, 61, said in an interview that his decision was final and had been made some time ago because of worsening relations with Dean Cardone. But he said he was aware that the congregation was deeply concerned.

The timing, he said, was regrettable. “I certainly did not feel good about that,” he said.

Cardone’s greetings to visitors still appear on the websites of both the cathedral and the diocese (upper left corner).

Cardone told Rather he has no interest in being reinstated, despite the efforts of some cathedral leaders:

Dean Cardone said he would not resume his post under Bishop Walker. “He goes or I go,” he said.

There should be no mystery about who will prevail in that showdown.

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Searching for "pottage" in Associated Press style

jacob_and_esauI am online again briefly in Thessaloniki and, whoa, there’s two ghosts in the same Associated Press story.

One of the ghosts is even laugh out loud funny.

Last time I checked, Georgia was a state with lots and lots of churches, the kind of place where even a Jimmy Carter Democrat needs to know what he is talking about on issues of faith, morality and culture. Thus, the early reports that Democratic Sen. Zell Miller is going to speak at the Republican National Convention is probably linked, in some way, to the whole pew gap story.

This was made rather clear in Miller’s recent book, “A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat,” which is currently a national best-seller. There is more than a little talk about faith and culture in that book.

What has changed for Miller? The AP story does not give us much on which to chew. It states:

The speech by Miller, a former two-term governor, comes 12 years after he delivered the keynote address for Bill Clinton at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, also held in New York. Miller, who is retiring in January, has voted with Republicans more often than his own party and has been a key sponsor of many of Bush’s top legislative priorities, including the Republican’s tax cuts and education plan.

In May, Miller spoke at the Georgia Republican convention and criticized Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry as an “out-of-touch, ultraliberal from Taxachusetts” whose foreign and domestic policies would seriously weaken the country.

“I’m afraid that my old Democratic ‘ties that bind’ have become unraveled,” Miller said.

If I am not mistaken, that “ties that bind” reference might be linked to an old hymn, a doxology even.

Georgia Democrats are not very happy about Miller’s decision, as made clear by the head of the state’s congressional delegation, Democratic Rep. John Lewis. Read the quote, then read the Associated Press explanation of the quote. It’s priceless.

“I think he has sold his soul for a mess of pottage,” said Lewis, in a reference to a speech Miller gave as a congressional candidate 40 years ago in which he argued that President Johnson was “a Southerner who sold his birthright for a mess of dark pottage” because of his support for the Civil Rights Act.

Pottage is defined as a thick soup or stew of vegetables.

Note to the AP copy desk. “Pottage” can also be found — in precisely the same context — in the book of Genesis. Check the 25th chapter. Think this way — Isaac, Esau, Jacob, pottage.

I would rather think that this “sold his soul for a mess of pottage” comment is a biblical reference. Democrats are allowed to make those too, you know. I expect them to try more of this language out in the months ahead.

My question: Why is playing “Isaac” in this political scenario?

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