Does Ricky Gervais want to sterilize ‘useless people?’ Or is he just joking?

The comedian Ricky Gervais — of British “The Office” fame — is not for everybody.

He can be pretty offensive. As the host of the recent Golden Globes, he joked about Mel Gibson’s issues with alcohol and about Paul McCartney’s divorce settlement.

Now an extensive interview that Gervais gave to a London newspaper is earning him all sorts of scorn.

gervais_t607A widely circulated article from Catholic Online declares: “Ricky Gervais is also a eugenicist. He promotes mandatory sterilization.”

I saw this and thought “Huh?”

It turns out that Gervais told The Sun that “useless people” should be sterilized.

He said that there are “too many people who are poor and struggling” and that  “What there is, is too many useless people. Too many people who shouldn’t have children.”

These are bizarre and troubling words.

But Gervais also says: “If there’s a woman in leggings, eating chips with a fag in her mouth, sterilise her.”

That last line made me think that Gervais could not possibly be serious and that the whole thing is some sort of joke.

After all, elsewhere in the interview, he says: “I want to antagonise as many people as love me for it. And I want the people who hate me to hate the fact that so many people love me. It’s my mission.”

About his critics, he says: “”I’m far too famous. I’m far too rich. I’m far too successful. I’m far too unapologetic. I’m far too smug. And I’ve got far too many awards.”

Can he be serious?

He also says: “I do have a plan for what I would like to do with my money one day… but it’s weird.”I love nature and would like to live in a house where, when I open the back door, it’s like a wildlife park.

“It’ll be like something out of a Disney film – the birds will be able to come down on my shoulder, I’ll be singing a little song to the squirrels while they’re chatting to a badger… ”

And he says that he intends to move to New York because “artists are more revered there.”

He’s either joking the whole time — or mad. Is it part of his act to mix rational statements with offensive, irrational ones?

I think he’s kidding around, but I’m not sure.

Asked whether only poor people should be sterilized, he answers directly: “I’d never impose someone not being able to have kids because they were poor.”

And the Sun points out that Gervais and his longtime girlfriend have never had children. It would be “too much hassle,” Gervais said.

Catholic Online’s Deacon Keith Fournier writes that even if Gervais’ comments are dismissed because he is a comedian, popular culture is often a barometer of changing cultural attitudes (and may help shape them in the process).

He writes:

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The assertion by Ricky Gervais that there are “useless people” in our midst reveals a Gathering Storm of Eugenics in Western Culture. It is time for a public outcry and denunciation. The comments by this “comedian” are a deadly poison which will, if left unchecked, threaten our future as a truly free and civilized people.

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Gervais has a new animated show premiering on HBO soon. He may have been trying to drum up interest.

He says he will soon appear on the American “Office” as his British “Office” character, David Brent. It will certainly be a much-hyped pop culture moment.

I wonder if Gervais’ comments about sterilization will come up.

(Mark J. Terrill / AP Photo)

Planned Parenthood urges ‘religion’ to stop blocking sex education for young people

I hadn’t heard about it before yesterday, but a new report from the International Planned Parenthood Federation has many conservative bloggers smoking mad.

The report, called “Stand and Deliver: Sex, Health and Young People in the 21st Century,” is basically a call for sex education and for access to birth control for “young people.”

The introduction explains:

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Young people deserve special attention in development settings, where they often lack access to services that adults in many countries take for granted. This makes young people vulnerable. Millions do not know how to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, or are ill equipped to do so. Young women and girls lack decision-making power and many are subjected to gender-based violence every day. In many places, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people live in fear of discrimination and stigmatization. Numerous countries do not regard sexual health or rights as a legitimate part of the public duty of care or acknowledge that young people are sexual beings. The taboo on youth sexuality is one of the key forces driving the AIDS epidemic and high rates of teenage pregnancy and maternal mortality.

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The report spends a lot of time on the challenges facing the poor, the spread of AIDS, and the need to invest in “in sexuality education, social programmes for youth, youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services, and promoting gender equality are vital to help young people develop the ability to cope with and respond to an ever- changing world.”

It also calls for access to safe abortion services in third-world countries.

Then, on page 28, it delivers this:

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Young people’s sexuality is still contentious for many religious institutions. Fundamentalist and other religious groups the – Catholic Church and madrasas (Islamic schools) for example – have imposed tremendous barriers that prevent young people, particularly, from obtaining information and services related to sex and reproduction. Currently, many religious teachings deny the pleasurable and positive aspects of sex and limited guidelines for sexual education often focus on abstinence before marriage (although evidence shows this strategy has been ineffective in many settings).63 The reality is, young people are sexual beings and many of them are religious as well. There is a need for pragmatism, to address life as it is and not as it might be in an ideal world.

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Now, most people — even those who vehemently disagree — expect Planned Parenthood to call for sex ed, availability of birth control and access to abortion.

But when PP starts coming after religion, in particular the Catholic Church, for not telling young people about the pleasure of sex, well, there’s going to be some reaction.

RedState.com writes:

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You see Pope Benedict, when you go preaching that we are all created in the image and likeness of God and that sex is a material reflection of the oneness of the Trinity and that it belongs in the Sacrament of marriage, which itself is a greater reflection of God and a training ground in selfless, supernatural love (Agape) . . . when you, Pope Benedict, talk about abstinence before marriage and honor and commitment, you’re, in effect, throwing a wet towel on middle school sexbots and seriously hampering IPPF’s revenues . . . so stop it! Besides, have you ever considered how all that guilt trip stuff will negatively affect little Sally’s and little Billy’s self esteem? That’s on your head old man!

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From ChristianNewsWire.com:

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Catholic talk show host, media expert, and co-author of the best selling “All Things Girl” series, Teresa Tomeo, insists the latest push by Planned Parenthood to promote sex to younger children is a wake-up call for Moms and Dads and anyone else concerned about today’s youth.

“Despite the fact that sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancies, and teen abortions, are on the rise, Planned Parenthood thinks pushing sexual promiscuity to kids as young as 10 is a good idea. It’s difficult enough for families to fight the constant flow of messages from the mass media that attack a chaste lifestyle; a healthy lifestyle that will protect kids from physical, psychological, and spiritual damage and now this. That’s why it’s so important that parents and others who teach or work with children have the information and the tools that can make a real difference in today’s toxic culture.”

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Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says:

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The ideology of sexual liberation pervades this document and the group that produced it. The idea that teaching children and teenagers to save sex for marriage is treated as outdated, repressive, and unrealistic. Instead, parents are told that they must become sexual and moral pragmatists, hoping that their young offspring will enjoy sex to the fullest, while avoiding pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease.

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And there’s plenty, plenty more…

Coincidentally, the Religious Institute, a liberal interreligious group that promotes “sexual health, education and justice,” released its own report yesterday called “Sexuality and Religion 2020.”

It basically calls for religious communities to do a much better job of promoting sex ed.

The group explains: “An estimated 60% of Americans belong to a local congregation, but clergy are not addressing issues of sexual morality and justice from the pulpit.  Last year, the largest-ever survey of mainline Protestant clergy revealed that more than 70% seldom or never discuss sexuality issues, and a Religious Institute study reported that seminaries and denominations do not require competencies in sexuality for future clergy.”

The eminent religion scholar Martin Marty, who took part in a press conference announcing the report, says: “The religious have always paid the sexual dimension of human existence great compliments by being engrossed with it – whether to keep it at a distance or often by overreacting to it as a threat. The goals of Sexuality & Religion 2020 will help to spread information among the religious, thus helping them disclose and appreciate the promise associated with this sexual dimension, whenever it is openly and creatively addressed.”

Still searching for perspectives on the suffering in Haiti

I noted yesterday that several New Orleans Saints were crediting God with their Super Bowl victory — while no Indianapolis Colts (that I’m aware of) said a peep about God favoring the opposition.

The phenomenon of people crediting God when things go right but not mentioning God when things go poorly got me thinking — again — of the religious responses we’ve heard to the suffering in Haiti.

As I’ve written over the past few weeks, numerous religious leaders have contended that God is present with the survivors and the rescue workers and that God expects all of us to help rebuild Haiti with our donations and prayers.

But few religious leaders address the dark and tenuous question (yes, the subject of my book) of where God was when the earthquake struck and thousands of people, young and old, good and bad, got crushed.

I can’t help it. I’m drawn to theodicy — attempts to reconcile God’s presence with the presence of evil.

So I went back and re-read a homily by a Catholic priest that came to my attention. Father Rees Doughty, pastor of St. Ann’s Church in Nyack, addresses the questions at hand quite directly.

I was going to quote a few sections of his homily, but I’ve decided to reprint the whole thing.

In short, he blames Original Sin for humankind’s fractured relationship with Creation. He says that until the created world finds peace in the fulfillment of “Jesus’ Kingdom,” God has rendered himself “helpless.” And he compares this state of helplessness to God’s position when Jesus Christ died on the cross.

Obviously, this is a Christian explanation that may not soothe those of other faiths. But it is an explanation that is worth reading, particularly if you, like me, admire religious leaders who don’t duck the tough ones:

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Our helpless God

When the human race suffers any natural disaster as catastrophic as the recent earthquake in Haiti, believers almost by nature turn to God not only in prayer but in bewilderment.  (Even non-believers appear to wonder.  The saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes” comes to mind.)  What was God thinking?  How could He have allowed something like this to happen? Where was He? Continue reading

Was the Saints’ win God’s plan?

Well, that was quite a game.

You have to feel good for the city of New Orleans, no matter which team you root for.

Coming five years after Katrina, the Saints’ big win seems perfectly scripted.

By whom?

A bunch of Saints players are saying that it was “God’s plan” that they beat the Colts.

Super Bowl FootballI saw an interview with QB Drew Brees last night on ESPN, maybe an hour after the game. He was calm and collected, like he just came home from the beach with his kids.

Brees is well known to be a devout Christian. He said that it was God’s plan that he came to New Orleans as a free agent a few years back and that it was God’s plan that the Saints won the title.

I’ve been looking for some video on the Web, but can’t find any so far.

Saints running Back Reggie Bush also made God his MVP: “God had a bigger plan than all of us, a plan that we couldn’t see three or four years ago.”

Bush also credits God for bringing tight end Jeremy Shockey to the Saints: “I told him, ‘God had a different plan for you.’ He’s got to appreciate it. I know he does. Shockey’s brought so much to this team, an attitude that we definitely needed. … We needed a guy like Shockey to bring that aggressiveness to our offense, and he’s been nothing but special from Day 1.”

And New Orleans’ defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, who was in an alcohol treatment center before this season began, credited God with his dramatic turn-around: “It’s just totally divine, this is God’s plan.”

I don’t mean to be flip, but I’m waiting for one of the Colts to say that they lost because it was God’s plan — or at least to say that it was God’s plan for the Saints to win, and the Colts happened to be the opponent.

Haven’t heard anything to that effect so far.

But, I did see the Colts’ kicker, old-timer Matt Stover, point to the heavens after he MISSED a kick. I remember thinking “Huh?”

One of the announcers actually noted Stover’s “spirituality” and that the kicker points skyward whether he hits or misses.

I think that makes Stover somewhat unique in the world of sports, where athletes generally acknowledge God only after they score or win.

Finally, there was Tim Tebow’s commercial (really his mom’s commercial), which came early, went by fast and only acknowledged the abortion issue with the broadest of strokes.

I can’t imagine there will be much fuss about it today.

The Focus on the Family website has a longer and much more expansive interview with Tebow’s parents.

Well, you know they’ll be celebrating the Saints’ win — the SAINTS won the Super Bowl! — in the churches of New Orleans and at Mardi Gras in a few weeks.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Should faith be part of the sports pages?

It seems that religious issues come up in the world of sports more and more.

On Sunday, we’ll see Tim Tebow put faith before football when he appears in a pro-life commercial during the Super Bowl.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey, online editor for Christianity Today, writes in the Wall Street Journal today about whether sports writers are comfortable taking on issues of faith.

She writes:

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Sports journalism often lends itself to lengthy profile-driven features. Sportswriters have some of the best opportunities to tell human-interest stories, and in some cases that means connecting the religious dots for people. But when you look closer into what it means to be religious, it usually involves divisive opinions on matters like heaven and hell, and, in some cases, abortion.

inside2-deanna-insideMillions of people will watch Mr. Tebow’s mother recount her story on Sunday. But fewer people may know that Brett Favre’s wife, Deanna (that’s her), faced a similar decision when she became pregnant after her second year of college, before the couple were married. Their Catholic faith was a key factor in their decision not to seek an abortion, Catholic News Service reports.

In 2006, Mr. (Kurt) Warner cited his faith as his reason for appearing in a political advertisement opposing a proposal that would have allowed embryonic stem cell research in Missouri.

If journalists are asking the right motivational questions (why did an athlete retire? why does he do prison ministry?) they might find religion in the answers. When appropriate, it’s the reporter’s responsibility to dig out the underlying story and present it to readers.

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Bailey quotes Sports Illustrated football guru Peter King (a favorite of mine), who is hesitant to take some athletes at their word when it comes to their professions of faith:

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Peter King, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, admits his own skepticism when players bring up their faith after a game. “I’ve seen enough examples of players who claim to be very religious and then they get divorced three times or get in trouble with the law,” Mr. King said earlier this week. “I’m not sure that the public is crying out for us to discover the religious beliefs of the athletes we’re writing about.”

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Photo: Anne Ryan, USA TODAY

Enjoy the Super Bowl…

ADDITION: Jim Daly, CEO of Focus on the Family, the group paying for The Tebow Commercial, said today he will attend the Super Bowl and answer questions about the commercial and the debate it has inspired.

We can only hope that all those sports writers will ask him better questions than they ask the players on Media Day.


Obama: ‘…grace was not absent in the midst of tragedy’

I’m continuing to keep an eye out for religious perspectives about the suffering in Haiti.

And this morning, President Obama addressed the subject at the National Prayer Breakfast in D.C.

His take is, as I’ve written before, the most common: God is with those who have responded to the suffering. He does not address God’s role (or lack of one) in the quake itself.

Per a White House transcript (which you can read here):

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Obama Prayer BreakfastThere is, of course, a need for prayer even in times of joy and peace and prosperity.  Perhaps especially in such times prayer is needed — to guard against pride and to guard against complacency.  But rightly or wrongly, most of us are inclined to seek out the divine not in the moment when the Lord makes His face shine upon us, but in moments when God’s grace can seem farthest away.

Last month, God’s grace, God’s mercy, seemed far away from our neighbors in Haiti.  And yet I believe that grace was not absent in the midst of tragedy.  It was heard in prayers and hymns that broke the silence of an earthquake’s wake.  It was witnessed among parishioners of churches that stood no more, a roadside congregation, holding bibles in their laps.  It was felt in the presence of relief workers and medics; translators; servicemen and women, bringing water and food and aid to the injured.

One such translator was an American of Haitian descent, representative of the extraordinary work that our men and women in uniform do all around the world — Navy Corpsman Christian [sic] Brossard.  And lying on a gurney aboard the USNS Comfort, a woman asked Christopher:  “Where do you come from?  What country? After my operation,” she said, “I will pray for that country.”  And in Creole, Corpsman Brossard responded, “Etazini.”  The United States of America.

God’s grace, and the compassion and decency of the American people is expressed through the men and women like Corpsman Brossard.  It’s expressed through the efforts of our Armed Forces, through the efforts of our entire government, through similar efforts from Spain and other countries around the world.  It’s also, as Secretary Clinton said, expressed through multiple faith-based efforts.  By evangelicals at World Relief.  By the American Jewish World Service. By Hindu temples, and mainline Protestants, Catholic Relief Services, African American churches, the United Sikhs.  By Americans of every faith, and no faith, uniting around a common purpose, a higher purpose.

It’s inspiring.  This is what we do, as Americans, in times of trouble.  We unite, recognizing that such crises call on all of us to act, recognizing that there but for the grace of God go I, recognizing that life’s most sacred responsibility — one affirmed, as Hillary said, by all of the world’s great religions — is to sacrifice something of ourselves for a person in need.

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Obama also used the occasion to renew his now-regular call for lessening the political partisanship in the country:

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Empowered by faith, consistently, prayerfully, we need to find our way back to civility.  That begins with stepping out of our comfort zones in an effort to bridge divisions.  We see that in many conservative pastors who are helping lead the way to fix our broken immigration system.  It’s not what would be expected from them, and yet they recognize, in those immigrant families, the face of God.  We see that in the evangelical leaders who are rallying their congregations to protect our planet.  We see it in the increasing recognition among progressives that government can’t solve all of our problems, and that talking about values like responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage are integral to any anti-poverty agenda.  Stretching out of our dogmas, our prescribed roles along the political spectrum, that can help us regain a sense of civility.

Civility also requires relearning how to disagree without being disagreeable; understanding, as President [Kennedy] said, that “civility is not a sign of weakness.” Now, I am the first to confess I am not always right.  Michelle will testify to that.  (Laughter.)  But surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith, or, for that matter, my citizenship.  (Laughter and applause.)

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ADDITION: A reader points out that none other than Tim Tebow offered the closing prayer at the National Prayer Breakfast.

We are only three days away from Tebow’s much-anticipated commercial during the Super  Bowl.

Here is Tebow’s prayer, from a blog called Tebowseyeblack.com:

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Dear Jesus, thank you for this today. Thank you for bringing together so many people that have a platform to influence people for you. Lord as we disperse today, let us be united in love, hope, and peace. Lord, let us come together as one and break down all the barriers in between us that separate us.

Lord, you came to seek and save that which is lost, and we thank you for that. Lord we don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future, and in that there is peace, and in that there comfort, and in that there is hope.

Lord we pray for the people all over the world that are hurting right now. The verse that comes to mind is James 1: 2-4, Consider it all joy, my brethren, whenever you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing. And we pray for the people in Haiti right now Lord, that you make them perfect and complete because you love them and have a plan for their lives, just as you do with our lives now.

So my prayer, as we leave today, that we are united as one because of you. We love you and thank you. In Jesus name, amen.

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(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Denomination wins appeal in ‘divorce’ case with dissident church

In 2005, I wrote about a low-profile court case involving a Presbyterian church in Orange County that could have far-reaching ramifications.

The First Presbyterian Church of Ridgebury had decided to leave its denomination, Presbyterian Church (USA), because its few remaining members did not like the denomination’s tolerant stance toward gays and lesbians nor its general leftward drift.

The congregation renamed itself the Church at Ridgebury and decided to take its stuff — its church building and property — with it.

hudsonriverpresbytery_logoAs you might expect, the Hudson River Presbytery, the regional body of PCUSA, objected. The Presbytery went to court.

A 2006 ruling went in favor of the Church at Ridgebury, saying that the congregation was not obligated to listen to the mother church.

The decision was a big blow for the presbytery. Once insider told me that several churches would probably leave if they could keep their real estate.

The issue has been coming up for years in all the mainline Protestant denominations, where conservative or traditional congregations increasingly find themselves at odds with their denominations over “Culture War” issues.

The Presbytery appealed. And, this time, won.

Last month, the Appellate Division of NYS Supreme Court reversed the earlier ruling.

The court ruled that the congregation failed to provide evidence that it owned the property in question:

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With respect to the real property, the defendants submitted the deeds conveying the subject real property to them, which did not contain any express reversionary or trust provisions. They also submitted a title search listing Ridgebury Church as the record owners of the subject real property. However, the defendants acknowledge that the Book Of Order, a component of the constitution of PCUSA, contains language specifying that all property held by a particular church is held in trust for the national denomination. The neutral principles approach requires the courts to “look to the constitution of the general church concerning the ownership and control of church property'” (Episcopal Diocese of Rochester v Harnish, 11 NY3d 340, 351, quoting First Presbyt. Church of Schenectady v United Presbyt. Church in U.S. of Am., 62 NY2d 110, 122, cert denied 469 US 1037). The express trust provision contained in the Book of Order defeats the defendants’ efforts to demonstrate their entitlement to summary judgment because the enactment of such a trust provision is one way in which the national denomination or Presbytery may ensure that church property is retained by the faction loyal to the national denomination and Presbytery upon secession of any particular church (see Jones v Wolf, 443 US 595).

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The court further held that several provisions of PCUSA’s Book of Order “are further proof that the PCUSA’s constitution expressly provided that all church property in the possession of local churches remained under the ultimate care and control of the Presbytery of Hudson River.”

According to the Presbyterian Layman, a generally conservative publication/website that covers these issues with great interest, the Church at Ridgebury has few options: request permission from the NYS Court of Appeals to appeal; go find a new church; or reach a settlement with the presbytery.

This is a much-needed reprieve for the Hudson River Presbytery.

But we’ll be hearing more about these property issues.

In fact, the conservative Washington Times just ran an article about traditional congregations in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American wanting to leave their denomination, but encountering opposition, even “bullying.”

Paul Shaffer to perform in White Plains for his Mount Kisco synagogue

Back in 2005, I covered a shofar blowing contest in Manhattan’s Herald Square Park.

As I remember it, it was a nice fall day in the city. And it was a truly interesting and fun event — listening to a bunch of people blow the heck out of their shofars (that ram’s horn used in synagogue during the High Holy Days).

One of the judges that day was one Paul Shaffer, David Letterman’s pal and band director. It turned out that Shaffer was Jewish and a member of the Mount Kisco Hebrew Congregation, the only Orthodox shul in northern Westchester.

tjndc5-5b5llz523hssk9ztezi_layoutI chatted with him a bit and he was very nice. “I can’t resist the sound of the shofar, haven’t been able to since I was a kid,” he told me. “It wakes you up and stirs your soul, if done properly, and it always has.”

The picture shows Shaffer with Rabbi Yitzchak Rosenbaum of Manhattan.

In his new book, “We’ll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin’ Show-Biz Saga,” Shaffer writes about Bob Dylan needing to leave a rehearsal for Letterman’s 10th anniversary show in 2003 because he would not perform during the Jewish Sabbath.

“His long and winding spiritual road had led him back to Orthodox Judaism,” Shaffer wrote. “He refused to play on the Sabbath.”

He went on: “Over time, I’ve lost track of Dylan’s movements in the spiritual continuum. I myself have remained consistent. I’m Jewish, I’m happy. I love the tradition. Like my favorite ballplayer, Sandy Koufax, I don’t play on Yom Kippur, the holiest time of the Jewish year, the sacred Day of Atonement.”

I mention Paul Shaffer not to drop names, but because he’s doing a fundraiser for the Mount Kisco Hebrew Congregation this Saturday night (Feb. 6) at the White Plains Performing Arts Center. And he’s bringing along his (non-Jewish) buddy, Martin Short.

The show is to benefit the synagogue’s educational programs and community outreach.

In 2008, I wrote about the Orthodox Union choosing three synagogues, including Mount Kisco, to work on “outreach” to unaffiliated Jews.

It must help to have Paul Shaffer on your team (conducting, no less!).

A hero — or user of poor judgment?

One of the strangest stories of recent weeks was the diversion of a flight because a Jewish teen from White Plains was using phylacteries for his morning prayers.

People who did not recognize his tefillin — two small wooden or plastic black boxes containing Biblical passages and attached to leather straps — feared it might be terrorism of some sort.

A cousin of the boy, 17-year-old Caleb Liebowitz, interviewed him for NewVoices, an entertaining “national Jewish student magazine.” The cousin, Joshua Goldman, writes of how strange it was to see Caleb (that’s him) on the evening news, “accused of being a terrorist.”

bildeThe flight was going from NY to Louisville, but made an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Imagine how pissed passengers must have been, especially after they learned what the threat was.

Here’s the interview:

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JG: What went through your mind when the flight attendant began asking questions about your tefillin?

CL: I didn’t think anything of it. I wasn’t sure if she was concerned or just curious. She asked what the boxes were and went away.

JG: So what happened in Philadelphia?

CL: They told us [to] put our hands on the seat in front of us, which we did. They had a gun out, which was pretty scary. We were seated in row five, and they said ‘Where’s seat 4E?’ and they go searching a guy right in front of us. Then they said ‘No no no, get the guy with the yarmulke, the guy with the yarmulke.”

JG: Has this been a learning experience?

CL: It’s been pretty surreal. Many in Chabad think that I’m a hero because tefillin became one of the top searches on Google. Some people think I showed poor judgment, that I expected [the flight attendant] to be familiar with the ritual of tefillin, which is not true. I expected her not to think that anything that was not familiar to her was a bomb.

JG: Do you think this would have happened before the underwear bomber of Northwest Airlines flight 253?

CL: Probably she was influenced by that fact that the last few bombing attempts had been stopped not by airport security but by other passengers. She must have been pretty scared because everyone is wondering why she didn’t try to restrain me or take the tefillin after I put them away. The only reason I can think of is that she thought if she moved near me, I would set it off.”

JG: How has this incident helped the Jewish community? What has their response been?

CL: Some people say that I have inspired them to put on tefillin. I consider that a positive effect.

JG: You now know more about US aviation security than most people. Are current security measures okay?<

CL: “The Agudath Israel Organization has been distributing information to the airlines on what practices Orthodox Jews do that look suspicious, but are totally fine. Maybe now, more airlines will see this literature.”

JG: You wear a yamulke, which makes it pretty clear that you are Jewish. Supporters of racial profiling may argue that this event would have been prevented if profiling were an accepted practice. Should the US adopt racial profiling?

CL: I don’t agree with profiling. It is pretty much the definition of racism.

JG: What’s it like having your 15 minutes of fame?

CL: I’m eagerly awaiting the end of the 15 minutes.

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By the way, why do Orthodox Jewish males (and many other Jews) lay tefillin?

According to MyJewishLearning.com:

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In four Pentateuchal passages it is stated that certain words should be on the hand and between the eyes. Many commentators, including Rashbam [Samuel ben Meir, 11th century Bible and Talmud commentator from France], hold that the plain meaning of these passages is that the words of the Torah should be constantly in mind, as in the verses: “Set them as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thine arm” (Song of Songs 8: 6) and “Let not kindness and truth forsake thee; bind them about thy neck, write them on the table of thy heart” (Proverbs 3: 3).

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Photo: (Paul Miles/WHAS Radio)

Is Tim Tebow a preacher on the field?

I mentioned the other day that college football superstar Tim Tebow will appear with his mom in a pro-life commercial during the Super Bowl.

As you’ve probably heard, a few pro-choice groups have criticized CBS for agreeing to show the ad. But CBS is holding firm.

I came across a very revealing column about Tebow on Slate.com by Jason Fagone, a journalist who profiled the QB for GQ magazine. He makes a strong case that Tebow’s Christian faith is not some side story in relation to Tebow’s football career, but THE story.

3430df414bfbbd23de3748e1e001Tebow sees his football stardom as evangelism, a way to bring more people to Christ.

Fagone notes that Tebow is perfectly comfortable talking about his faith, maybe to a degree that most famous people are not, but that most writers don’t really want to go there. As if it’s too personal or too…wacky.

Fagone writes:

*****

Tebow has never really been asked about this stuff, which is a shame. I had a chance when I wrote a profile of him for GQ, but I blew it. I only got as far as a little riff on evolution, which Tim brought up himself, mentioning his admiration for creationist Ravi Zacharias. “Have you ever heard Ravi Zacharias speak before?” Tebow asked me. “He came here to speak and I talked to him for a little bit. … The way he can draw you in with his stories and his wording, and then at the same time make it so easy and simple for someone to understand—I was like, man, he’s great. I thought it was awesome.” But when I got to the heavier God stuff, I started to sweat, fumbling my questions like a blown snap from center. I kept thinking, This guy is a college football player. It’s not fair to ask him what he thinks of Mohammed.

But that was not only stupid; it was condescending. Today, I really regret not asking Tebow about Islam and gay marriage. I regret not asking him if a Jew can go to heaven, and whether he believes that Hurricane Katrina and the stock-market crash are manifestations of “God’s wrath”—as the new pastor at his church, Mac Brunson, has said. (Just last Sunday, Brunson name-checked Pat Robertson, who had been pilloried for calling the people of Haiti devil-worshippers: “You can’t help but just pray for him, you know?” Brunson told his congregation. “He may be right, but what a dumb time to say something like that.”) These are more than fair questions given Tebow’s decision to politicize the Super Bowl, and if reporters don’t ask them, they’re actually doing Tebow a disservice. At SEC Media Day last year, one brave reporter asked Tebow if he was saving himself for marriage. “Yes, I am,” Tebow said as the room burst into nervous giggles. He laughed and his eyes lit up: “I think y’all are stunned right now! You can’t even ask a question!” If anything, he was frustrated that nobody had asked him the question sooner. After all, it can’t be much fun to be a culture warrior if the opposing culture is constantly wimping out, denying you a chance to show your true mettle. Grind him, test him—he’s ready.

*****

Sure, most college football fans know that Tebow is a Christian. They’ve seen the Bible verses painted under his eyes during games.

But Fagone spends some time on the super-conservative Christian tradition that Tebow comes from. His dad runs the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association, which has been working to save souls in the Philippines since 1985. Their website explains: “Since 1985, there has been an increasing movement of the Holy Spirit in the Philippines. BTEA feels an intense sense of urgency to get the gospel to every Filipino before this great door of opportunity closes.”

As Fagone notes, the group’s website includes a detailed description of the “rapture” to come.

In other words, Tim Tebow is not your average star QB with a church background. His story, as it unfolds, may be far more interesting.

Photo: Phil Sandlin, AP