April Fools Day

No, I have no plans to play a joke you but I waned to take the opportunity to link to some of my favorite pranks.

In 1957, BBC broadcast a documentary on the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest at a time when pasta must’ve been exotic enough to fool people that it grows on trees much less in Switzerland.  Sadly the video is only available in the hit-or-miss Real Player format.

MIT students are famous for playing creative pranks which they call hacks. The MIT IHTFP Hack Gallery immortalizes the best of them.

Finally, while I cannot stomach the “food” sold at Taco Bell, I did get a kick out of their April 1, 1996 advertisement announcing that they purchased the Liberty Bell.

More fun April Fools Day pranks at The Museum of Hoaxes.

Happy April Fools.

March for Faith

Once again it’s time for me to post all the interesting articles, news, and opinion I’ve read in the past month regarding faith, religion, and spirituality for the month of March.

Leading off is Becky Garrison’s piece on the God’s Politics blog regarding the flaw of accepting extremist views as representative as Christianity on the whole:

Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and other New Atheists cite Fred Phelps, Jerry Falwell, and Ann Coulter as ontological proof that all Christians are hypocrites. Using this logic, I could turn the tables around and pick out, say, the Marquis de Sade, Mao Tse-tung, and Marilyn Manson. I can use their stories to prove that all atheists are sadists, dictators, and really bad rock musicians. In the words of Dana Carvey (a.k.a. former President George H.W. Bush), “Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.”

Sr. Joan Chittister writes Christian, Secular or Something Else Entirely regarding the upcoming release of Angela Merkel’s Berlin Declaration and the its response the Brussels Declaration which she predicts will be topics of debate that may change Western society.

The Brussels Declaration makes two points: First, that the ideal environment for all religions is not the theocratic state — the state that defines itself as identified by some single religion — but the secular state. Secondly, the Brussels Declaration points out that secularism and atheism are not synonyms. The secular state, the document argues, is not anti-religion. It is not atheistic. It is, instead, anti-establishmentarianism. It identifies itself with no particular religion and so it privileges no single religion. As a result, the document declares, it protects the right of all religions to practice without recrimination.

We may never have needed the distinctions more. Western society is becoming highly multicultural and polyglot in its religions. The most rapidly expanding population in the United States, for example, is not Christian but Muslim. The Christian nature of Western society that could once be taken for granted is becoming increasingly blurred. So what are we now — really?

Clearly, the issue, however understated in the public mind, has the incendiary capacity to divide a nation. The question may be a quiet one, but it is not an unimportant one. On its answer may well rest the character of nation states in times to come. Are we Christian countries that admit non-Christians to citizenship? Or are we secular states that protect the practice of all religions but identify the state with no single one of them?

By way of the BustedHalo Blog is an interesting article in First Things about Evangelical Christians and their changing attitudes toward the role of the Virgin Mary. The article includes historical details on the veneration of the Blessed Mother in the Catholic Church and the reaction of Protestant reformers against those views.

So why should evangelicals participate in and celebrate the Marian moment that seems to be upon us? The answer is: Precisely because they are evangelicals, that is, gospel people and Bible people. Mary has a pivotal and irreducible place in the Bible, and evangelicals must reclaim this aspect of biblical teaching if we are to be faithful to the whole counsel of God. When it comes to the gospel, Mary cannot be shunted aside or relegated to the affectionate obscurity of the annual Christmas pageant. In the New Testament, she is not only the mother of the redeemer but also the first one to whom the gospel was proclaimed and, in turn, the first one to proclaim it to others. Mary is named a “herald” of God’s good news. We cannot ignore the messenger, because the message she tells is about the salvation of the world.

In mid-March, Pope Benedict VXI released his latest commentary and reflection on Eucharist and Liturgy in Sacramentum Caritatis. The news sources are in a disorganized tizzy about what it’s really about but there’s a good summary of the document at National Catholic Reporter. The full text of the document is available at the Vatican website but I confess that I don’t expect I’ll be intellectual enough to read the whole thing due to its length and legalese language.

John Dear, SJ writes about the lessons of nonviolence learned from the life of Sophie Scholl, member of the White Rose resistance movement in Nazi Germany and a martyr. My favorite part is a quote from Howard Zinn about hope:

A few months ago, my friend Howard Zinn, the great historian and author of A People’s History of the United States, visited Santa Fe, and a luncheon was put on in his honor. He had been studying social change for more than 35 years, he said, and he had come to a conclusion. Every U.S. movement for social change — the abolitionists, suffragists, labor, civil rights, and anti-war movements — from their beginning, throughout their years, and right up to the very end was … hopeless. I found this oddly consoling.

LAMLand writes about “Our Priestly Sacrifices at Mass”:

What do you bring to Mass with you? Do you realize, as per Vatican II, you are an active participant in the Mass along with the celebrant?

Certainly some things here I never thought about/realized before.

Not a very in depth article from the Boston Globe, but an interesting story all the same about the Boston Catholic Women’s Conference. Cardinal Sean had flattering things to say about the women in attendence and Catholic women in general. Rwandan genocide survivor and author of the book Left to Tell, Immaculee Ilibagiza spoke at the conference.

Amy Belger , 39, of South Weymouth, came with her 6-week-old daughter.

“I think listening to speakers like Immaculee helps put your problems in perspective,” she said. “I think the cardinal’s message to women was that we’re in a unique position to speak about life, and that’s an important message to take away.

The Lesser of Two Weevils tells even more about the changing role of women in the church in this post that gives a history of Catholic Feminism in Canada.

Over the past 30 years the Canadian bishops have become staunch supporters of the rightful place of women in the Church. Even when Pope John Paul ended discussion on the ordination of women in 1994, the bishops said they would not allow the papal ban to become an obstacle to involve women more and more in the structure of the Church.

Women getting their voices heard is very good stuff indeed. Lesser of Two Weevils also directed me to this article in the Western Catholic Reporter with highlights of a talk by Father Ronald Rolheiser on Christianity in the contemporary world.

“One of the reasons there is so much anti-Christianity in some circles is precisely because we have trumpeted and we have been triumphant in the wrong way some times. We’ve made God into a power figure and God is always thoroughly underwhelming. God never overwhelms us, never, ever.”

Zack Exley writes “What Lessons Can Progressives Learn from Evangelicals?” about how evangelical Christians are leading the way in serving and engaging the poor and the outcast.

[Heather] Zydek characterizes the movement this way: “We want to get back to the roots of Christianity, to the essence of Christianity, which is about service to those in need, sacrifice, denial of self for others — it’s about [Jesus saying] ‘pick up your cross and follow me.’ But for too long we’ve spread a gospel of suburbanism, of self-centeredness, of capitalism, of political conservatism — but not the gospel: the gospel that came from Christ.”

Whispers in the Loggia asks “Did Jesus Laugh?” Mentions James Martin who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite contemporary writers and his Crusade for Cheer.

Catholicism, holiness, and spirituality comments on the mixed messages in the case for canonization of Oscar Romero.

When leaders speak out in public, they become part of the political debate. And that’s a good thing – they have a right and a duty to do so. It doesn’t seem right, though, to encourage our bishops to speak out and as a result become part of the public political debate, only to hold it against them when they are gone.

That’s it for March. Now it’s April which begins with Holy Week!