Serious words at funny Al Smith dinner

Political insiders know that the Alfred E. Smith Dinner strives to honor decades of civic and religious traditions.In election years, it's a tradition that the presidential candidates appear -- wearing formal, white-tie attire -- and satirize their own public images, while also aiming a few gentle shots at their opponent and the ranks of elite journalists in attendance.Thus, Republican standard-bearer Mitt Romney, with a nod to his Mormon fuddy-duddy reputation, reminded the audience of … [Read more...]

So a cardinal, Jesuit and comedian get to chat …

In the year 752, a priest named Stephen was elected pope, but died four days later -- before officially filling the chair of St. Peter in Rome.For centuries Catholic records included him as Pope Stephen II -- until the Second Vatican Council. At that time, Pope Stephen III officially became Pope Stephen II (III) and the other later popes named Stephen received similarly strange titles.So Pope Stephen III kind of vanished and that title became a kind of ecclesiastical inside joke, the kind … [Read more...]

Maher says Obama’s faith is fake

The last thing the White House needed was another TV preacher questioning the sincerity of President Barack Obama's Christian faith.But there was a twist. This time it was HBO's Bill Maher -- sermonizing against religion has become his life's work -- who claimed that Obama is hiding a deep, dark secret. During the Feb. 11 episode of his "Real Time" talk show, Maher said he knows an unbeliever when he sees one and that Obama is probably an agnostic.This came a week after the president made … [Read more...]

Super Bowl holy wars — 2011

The ill-fated "Feed Your Flock" ad is, without a doubt, the most famous 30 seconds of video that no one will see during Super Bowl XLV.For the few who didn't catch it online, the ad features a worried pastor -- in a clerical collar -- who has empty pews and too many unpaid bills. Thus, he prays for inspiration and God responds with the sound of crunching chips and fizzing soda.Soon hungry souls -- Jewish, Amish and Hare Krishna included -- are lining up in church for Doritos and Pepsi MAX in … [Read more...]

Congregating with Jon Stewart Leibowitz

In the beginning, there was the multimedia superstar Glenn Beck summoning his Tea Party congregation to a faith-friendly "Restoring Honor" rally on the National Mall.And behold, two postmodern prophets witnessed this media storm and decided that it was good. In response, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central organized their pre-election "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear."Colbert, a progressive Catholic Sunday school teacher who pretends to be a right-wing blowhard, provided … [Read more...]

Politics, Baylor, The NoZe & Aqua Buddha

If Texas Baptists had a patron saint, the Rev. George W. Truett would almost certainly get the nod.So it was a solemn occasion when the great preacher from Dallas arrived in "Jerusalem on the Brazos" in 1941 to preach a series of revival services at Baylor University, the planet's largest Baptist institution of higher learning. Then loud alarm clocks started ringing in the attic of cavernous Waco Hall, on three-minute intervals.This pandemonium was, of course, orchestrated by Baylor's Nose … [Read more...]

Pastor Will B. Dunn — RIP

Cartoonist Doug Marlette got used to hearing people mix comments about his humor with references to Almighty God.After all, one of the main characters in his syndicated comic strip "Kudzu" was the Rev. Will B. Dunn, a deep-fried Southern preacher who always remained optimistic, even as he battled with the insanity of modern life (especially trendy Bible translations).Meanwhile, Marlette's political cartoons often inspired readers to barrage editors with the kind of God talk that cannot be … [Read more...]

Nervous believers in Year 18

Religious folks sure get nervous when public officials talk about "fundamentalist" gunmen invading a school.Consider what happened recently after a staged emergency at Burlington Township High School in New Jersey. The police script for the drill called for armed men to crash the front doors, shoot several students and barricade themselves in the library with hostages. This document, according to the Burlington County Times, described the intruders as part of "a right-wing fundamentalist group … [Read more...]