Just a few second of quiet, please, Wolf…

Christianity Today’s election blog reminds me of a funny moment from the end of the DNC last might.

I was flipping around the different news channels (comparing and contrasting pundits) after Obama finished and landed on CNN right around the time that megachurch pastor Joel Hunter was starting the benediction. One of the CNN pundits suggested that everyone hush up for a few second because it was, after all, the final benediction.

images7.jpegNot more than two or three second went by before Wolf Blitzer started yapping again. It had the timing of a comedy routine.

I’m assuming that Wolf wasn’t paying attention when his colleague urged just a few moments of quiet for prayer time.

Christianity Today’s Sarah Pulliam also reports that Hunter had a brief chat with Billy Graham, seeking advice for the benediction.

Hunter said of Graham: “He’s so frail, he can’t hear right now, so his assistant was the one who sat down with him. It takes him a while now to communicate. His assistant was the one who was telling me all of this.

“He said he’d be praying for me, and he’ll be watching.”

And from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes…

hp8-29-08d.jpgSo, it’s Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate.

I found a profile from the Anchorage Daily News from way back in 2006, when Palin was a largely unknown candidate for governor of Alaska.

It included this:

Palin’s parents say they are not political and don’t know how she decided to turn her ambition and work ethic toward politics. Her Christian faith, they say, came from her mother, who took her children to area Bible churches as they were growing up (Sarah is the third of four siblings). They say her faith has been steady since high school, when she led the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and grew stronger as she sought out believers in her college years.

Palin doesn’t brandish her religion on the campaign trail, but that doesn’t prevent others from doing so. After she was first elected mayor, her predecessor, John Stein, objected that a Valley cable TV program had hailed her as Wasilla’s first “Christian mayor.” In a column for the local newspaper, he named eight previous mayors and added that he, too, was a Christian, despite a name that led some voters to suspect “I must be a non-Christian, have non-Christian blood or at least have sympathized with a non-Christian sometime in my career.”

We will certainly hear a lot about her strong pro-life record — and about her fifth child, who has Down Syndrome.

In April, LifeNews.com reported:

As many as 80 percent of unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome become victims of abortion, but Alaska Gov, Sarah Palin didn’t let her child become a statistic. Palin, who has deeply-felt pro-life views, gave birth to her fifth child this week and the baby was diagnosed with the condition.

On Tuesday, Palin confirmed her baby, named Trig Paxson, has Down syndrome.

“Trig is beautiful and already adored by us,” Palin said in a statement LifeNews.com obtained.

Cardinal Egan’s two statements on abortion draw waves of kudos

Why do I get the feeling that if and when Cardinal Egan does retire, his two, strong anti-abortion statements of 2008 will go down as a large part of his public legacy?

For years, observers of all kinds noted Egan’s reticence to speak out in the public square. At first, many thought he was reluctant to try to follow Cardinal O’Connor, a master of the ages at both sound bites and all-out speeches. In recent years, I’ve heard many people say that Egan was cutting himself off from the public square because he could not get past his deep distrust of the mainstream media.

tjndc5-5b531olhqk315wbdl7p4_layout.jpgIt’s true that Egan often writes with zest in Catholic New York and that he speaks often on The Catholic Channel on SIRIUS Satellite Radio. But his audience is limited.

I don’t know how many times over the year I’ve heard Catholic laypeople wonder what the archbishop of New York was up to.

Then came 2008. In April, pro-choice Rudy Giuliani received the Eucharist at a papal Mass at St. Patrick’s Catheral.

And Egan hammered him — releasing an out-of-the-blue statement that included: “I had an understanding with Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, when I became Archbishop of New York and he was serving as Mayor of New York, that he was not to receive the Eucharist because of his well-known support of abortion. I deeply regret that Mr. Giuliani received the Eucharist during the Papal visit here in New York…”

The Catholic blogosphere went nuts, with orthodox/conservative/devoutly pro-life Catholics hailing Egan as a hero. For weeks, bloggers continued to hold up Egan’s statement as an example of how a cardinal/archbishop is supposed to act.

Then, this past Sunday, Nancy Pelosi went on “Meet the Press” and tried to explain her pro-choice position, in part, by contending that Catholic teachings on abortion were once unclear.

After Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl and Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput took some opening shots at Pelosi, Egan let absolutely loose:

We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb. In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons.

And the blogosphere has again gone crazy!

One blogger wrote: “If you compare the statements of Cardinal Rigali, Bishop Lori, Archbishop Chaput, and Archbishop Wuerl to Cardinal Egan’s, the latter has the tone of someone who has “had it” with the hubris of pro-abortion politicians.”

Another: “Cardinal Egan’s judgment of Nandy Pelosi’s farce about the church’s teaching on abortion is unusually and refreshingly blunt. Bravo for him.”

Still another blogger opens with “Did I just hear Cardinal Egan change the abortion debate?” and then goes on to say: “Game, set and match to the pro-life crowd. Cardinal Egan just pulled a reverse of the Scopes Monkey trials. He demonstrated that scientific proof was on the side of the Bible, but knowing he was speaking to a lot of folks who put no credence in the scriptures, he avoided even bringing them into the conversation.”

Strong praise, indeed.

And, yes, Egan is drawing comparisons to none other than…John O’Connor.

One blogger wrote: “This is like the good old days; a New York City Cardinal telling a CINO (Catholic in Name Only) she must recant her pro-abortion position! It reminds me of Cardinal John O’Connor and Geraldine Ferraro and Mario Cuomo. Well done, Cardinal Egan!”

And the RedState blog went with this headline: “Cardinal Egan channels Cardinal O’Connor, and lays the smackdown on Nancy Pelosi.”

When all is said and done, some Catholics — not all, but some — may remember Egan as Cardinal Smackdown.

Crucified frogs and protesting pagans

Interesting tidbits from Europe:

An art museum in northern Italy won’t remove a sculpture of a crucified frog, despite protests from Pope Benedict XVI and others.

fa7f7afbcb984abb9af636e85fd6d571.jpgThe pope wrote in a letter to the museum that the sculpture “has offended the religious feelings of many people who consider the cross a symbol of God’s love and of our redemption.”

But the Museion in the city of Bolzano is standing by the work by the late German artist Martin Kippenberger.

From the AP:

The 1990 wooden sculpture shows the crucified frog nailed through the feet and hands like Jesus Christ. The frog, eyes popping and tongue sticking out, wears a loincloth and holds a mug of beer and an egg in its hands.

The museum said the 3-foot (1-meter) -tall sculpture has nothing to do with religion, but is an ironic self-portrait of the artist and an expression of his angst.

“With humor and a tragicomic sense, which belongs to art since the times of Greek tragedy, Kippenberger … faces his condition of suffering, which he expresses in many works, also, for example, in a video in which he crucifies himself,” the museum said in a statement.

Also, a group of pagans in Athens, Greece, said today they would hold a protest prayer Sunday among the ruined Acropolis temples.

A group called Ellinais is campaigning to revive ancient religion, according to the AP, and will defy government bans on holding prayers at the ancient temples.

images6.jpegA spokesperson said the group would pray to Athena, the goddess of wisdom and patron of ancient Athens.

The group is angry that hundreds of sculptural masterpieces were removed last year from a small museum n the Acropolis.

Frog photo: Othmar Seehauser, AP

‘Let them be guided by Your merciful hand…’

Archbishop Demetrios, the NYC-based head of the Greek Orthodox Church in the U.S., offered the prayer of invocation at the DNC yesterday. I didn’t see it, but here’s the text:

demetrios.jpgLet us bow our heads in prayer.

Almighty God, the Giver of all that is good and true and noble, we bow our heads before You in thanksgiving for bringing us together at this Democratic National Convention. We offer thanks to You for the great gift of liberty and for the privilege of being residents and citizens of a nation that is called to be a model of justice, peace, and the rule of law. As we give thanks for these blessings, we humbly beseech You, Lord, to remember all of those who have given their lives in defense of these ideals over the course of our Nation’s history, so that through their sacrifices we may partake of the fruits of freedom which we enjoy today.
Guide the work of all the delegates who have assembled here as they vigorously promote the institutions of our democracy. Remember, Lord, Your servants who will be nominated as candidates for the highest offices of our land. Bless them and grant them strength and wisdom, as they work for our nation, and for its great mission among the nations of the Earth. Let them be guided by Your merciful hand, and thus contribute to the peace, prosperity, and security of our country and our world; for You are the source of these great blessings, and to You belong glory and thanksgiving, now and forever and ever. Amen.

A Catholic for Veep

The Pew Forum has prepared a short “religious biography” for Joe Biden.

Here’s a piece:

1584f0a6610f4346a1e52f0e0d314390.jpgBiden and his wife, Jill, attend St. Patrick Church, part of the Diocese of Wilmington; he nominated St. Patrick’s former priest, the Rev. James Trainor, to serve as a guest chaplain in the Senate in 2001. Biden had an hour-long private audience with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1980 on the subject of Poland’s position in the former Communist bloc. Biden met Pope John Paul II three more times. He attended the pope’s 2005 funeral and told The News Journal that the presence of religious leaders from other traditions made the event “much more meaningful.”

When the Diocese of Wilmington’s bishop, Michael Saltarelli, came under pressure in 2004 and 2005 to deny communion to Biden and other Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, the bishop refused, saying through a diocesan spokesman that he “prefers prayer and active engagement” with politicians who take positions contrary to church doctrine; Biden refused to comment on the issue.

About that Christian Science article…

This is how I led a recent article about how Christian Scientists raise children without medicine in the health-obsessed suburbs:

Having left Manhattan for woodsy Cortlandt in the fall with his wife and 4-year-old daughter, Nate Ouderkirk knew a bit about the supposed dangers of Lyme disease that suburbanites worry about as a rite of spring.

Sure enough, he was off to a play date one day with his daughter, Dylan, a curious cutie with blond bangs, when he noticed a tick on her leg.

He did something that few suburban parents would: He dropped Dylan off at her appointment and went to Starbucks. Once there, he began to pray and to read selected verses from the Bible as well as “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” a century-old book by Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy.

“What came to me,” he said, “was ‘God is in control right now. God is good and in control. Dylan is safe.’ I had to resist the temptation to buy into it, that a tick would make Dylan sick.”

He picked Dylan up at the scheduled time, went home, and removed the tick – without causing Dylan any fear or concern. Dylan did not develop Lyme disease.

tjndc5-5km48abmher6wzz6ics_layout.jpgI thought that this anecdote was perfect for opening the article because it showed how the Christian Science approach to a health “concern” is radically different from the approach that most parents would take (pull the tick, run to the doctor). Ouderkirk, a very open and engaging fellow (that’s him with Dylan), told me that he was not concerned about the tick, which he truly believed would not do any harm to his child.

He believed that if he prayed about his child’s perfection — his daughter being a child of God — no harm would come to her.

That is what Christian Science is all about. Most people probably have an inkling that Christian Scientists prefer prayer to medicine. But I would guess that most people assume that Christian Scientists pray for healing — like televangelists who call down the Holy Spirit to heal the sick.

But that’s not it. Christian Scientists believe that people are inherently perfect because they are created in the image of a perfect God. So they pray about their perfection — to rid themselves of any doubts or fears — and expect that any perceived illness or injury will dissolve, just melt away.

That’s why I chose to lead with the “tick anecdote.” Nate Ouderkirk knew what he had to do — pray — and he did it.

But…some people thought that the opening of the article portrayed Ouderkirk badly, especially this line: “He dropped Dylan off at her appointment and went to Starbucks.”

One of the Christian Scientists I interviewed for the article, Marti Stewart of Scarborough, has a letter in today’s Journal News/LoHud that says: “The article gives the impression that Nate Ouderkirk was unconcerned about his daughter’s condition. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

As I’ve told Stewart and others since the article ran, I certainly didn’t mean to give the impression that Ouderkirk was unconcerned about his daughter, but to show how a Christian Scientist practices the faith in the day-to-day world. While some people will certainly conclude that Ouderkirk acted irresponsibly in not immediately removing the tick, those same people would probably conclude that Christian Science practice is itself a poor alternative to true-blue medicine.

The Ouderkirks, Stewart, a third family I visited, and Pamela Cook, a Christian Science spokesperson in this region, were all quite open and gracious while I reported this story. They truly believe that in practicing Christian Science, they are using the same healing methods that Jesus Christ used. I only tried to show what those are…

When no churches are available for 800 people…

tjndc5-5k7d0euaqrm2v93darb_layout.jpgBishop Robert Rimbo, just taking over as leader of the Metro New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, will be installed on Oct. 12 in a pretty usual place: a synagogue.

Here’s his explanation from this week’s synod “e-letter:”

Bishop’s installation at Central Synagogue?
I’m sure that some people are wondering about that location-in fact, I’ve heard from a couple of pastors about my decision. Let me share some basic facts about why the installation will be at this historic place of worship.

We were invited by the Senior Rabbi, Peter Rubinstein, a friend of mine. There is a long history of Central sharing its space with Lutherans: St. Peter’s, Manhattan, used it when their church was being built in the mid-’70s, and Central used St. Peter’s after their fire in the late ’90s. So it’s not the first time a Christian, even Lutheran, congregation has worshiped there. We sought other likely places, and none were available: St. John the Divine is still in disrepair, and St. Patrick’s will not allow us to celebrate the Eucharist. We need to accommodate 800 people, and there MUST be complete accessibility for all. Places like Riverside Church were booked already. And I think we must make efforts in this synod to broaden our partnerships with other faith groups as well as strengthen our own ecumenical relationships. So those, in short, are the reasons.

I hope you’ll plan to be with us on Sunday, 12 October, at 3 p.m.-with gathering music starting at 2:30 p.m.

Bishop Rimbo

Rimbo, by the way, has started the process of traveling around the vast synod — which stretches from NYC to Long Island and up the Hudson Valley — to meet people and get the pulse of what’s going on. He’s scheduled to visit all regions of the synod by May.

To think, when I interviewed Rimbo in June, he didn’t even have a car.

‘…to go forth and witness the Good News…’

The Rev. James Heuser, the New Rochelle-based provincial (or leader) of the Salesians in the eastern half of the U.S., recently commissioned a big group of Salesian Lay Missionaries.

A Mass was celebrated at the Don Bosco Retreat House in Stony Point-Haverstraw. Each volunteer was given a missionary cross. They each pledged “to go forth and witness the Good New of Jesus Christ as we join our lives to those of the poor, especially of poor young people at risk, to walk the journey of faith with them as they grow into good Christians and productive citizens.”

slms-2008.JPG

The Salesians — one of the world’s largest Catholic religious communities — have had a lay missionary program for about 25 years.

The new group will serve in orphanages, schools and medical clinics in Bolivia, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, India, the Sudan (a first for the program), and “a country where the religious situation is delicate.”

Most are recent college grads. They come from 13 states.

According to a statement from the Salesians:

At the commissioning Mass Fr. Heuser preached on the readings of the day. Finding words of blessing and of woe in the prophet Nahum, he urged the new missionaries to bear the good news of Jesus Christ, of God’s great love for the young and the poor, of the triumph of good over evil; and to denounce human greed, selfishness, and fear when they encounter these. He told the SLMs that they will know what to announce and what to denounce if they heed the words of Jesus in the day’s gospel: if they take up his cross, follow him, lose their own lives, and open themselves to the Spirit of Jesus.
He reminded them that they are going overseas not as social workers but as disciples of Jesus. They will experience in their missions both blessings and sufferings, which can be redemptive. Like St. Teresa of Avila in Bernini’s sculpture St. Teresa in Ecstasy, which he described, they will know both ecstasy and pain because the experience of God always cuts both ways.