I’m back! Did you miss me? I had a lovely vacation at my undisclosed location, and I would like to give a huge thank you to my amazing guest bloggers, who went above and beyond the call of duty to write some wonderfully challenging, moving, and insightful things. I urge my readers to add their blogs (found in the blogroll to your right) to your daily Internet travels, in addition to checking out the many published works they have produced.
Now, let’s catch up on the news…
The Libertarian Party has picked its nominee for President of the United States of America. Former congressional Republican Bob Barr. A puzzling choice considering that Barr’s record isn’t one that lends itself easily to Libertarian values of a small and un-intrusive government.
“Barr not only wrote and sponsored the Defense of Marriage act, but also voted for the Patriot Act; proposed the Pentagon ban a religious group from practice in the military: Wicca; and advocated complete federal prohibition of medical marijuana—succeeding in this last with his “Barr Amendment” – which also forbid any future law that would decrease penalties for marijuana use.”
Barr is widely famous as an anti-Pagan bigot who tried to ban the military from allowing equal access and freedoms to Pagan soldiers, which he claimed set a “dangerous precedent” and that toleration of Paganism led to youth violence. This no doubt leaves many libertarian-leaning Pagans in a quandary, since a vote for Barr is a vote for someone who has actively worked against equality for Pagans.
Another religious freedom battle involving Santeria is brewing. Santeria priest Ernesto Pichardo is threatening litigation if the police dept. in Coral Gables, Florida doesn’t release their records of an incident that occurred last summer.
“Ernesto Pichardo, president of the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, has been trying for almost a year to obtain records relating to the interruption of a Santeria ceremony by police last summer. An attorney he recently hired, David Aelion, has filed a public records request for any documents relating to the incident, which took place June 8. Aelion has requested all the incident reports, any internal investigations reports and communications between officers the day of the incident, as well as photographs taken at the scene, inventory reports and all city communications referring to the scene. ‘We want to find out why they were there for quite a few hours holding them [the practitioners] against their will,’ Aelion told The Miami Herald Friday. ‘It is pretty clear that the U.S. Supreme Court allows them to practice their religion freely. Why did it take many officers and that long to find out that they had no right to be there and no right to bother them?’ He said he was preparing for a possible civil rights violation case.”
According to reports, around two dozen officers with guns drawn interrupted an initiation ceremony after a neighbor reported that he could hear animals suffering. Why dozens of cops with guns drawn were necessary to investigate an animal cruelty complaint remains unknown.
Is the Crowley-inspired horror film “Chemical Wedding” so bad its good?
“Fans of terrible movies shouldn’t miss Chemical Wedding, which contains so many wooden performances it should really have been thinned before release by the forestry commission. Director Julian Doyle shoots the whole thing as though it is a Hammer horror film, and most of the actresses have the Hammer hallmark of being extraordinarily unfit for acting. Most of the cast underact. The one, big – and I do mean big – exception is Simon Callow, who appears to have been taking acting lessons from Brian Blessed and, possibly as a result, gone stark staring bonkers.”
Other reviews seem to be sounding similar notes. All we need is some audience participation, and a regular midnight showing, and we’re good to go! But while “Chemical Wedding” turns Aleister Crowley into a serial-killing horn-dog, works in other mediums are seeking to redeem the great beast, and paint him as a vilified patriot.
“Using documents gleaned from American, British, French, and Italian archives, Secret Agent 666 reveals that Crowley’s clandestine service linked him to the sinking of the Lusitania, a plot to overthrow the government of Spain, the thwarting of Irish and Indian nationalist conspiracies, the Communist International, and the 1941 flight of Rudolf Hess. Author Richard Spence, a professor of History at the University of Idaho, argues that Crowley–in his own unconventional way–was a patriotic Englishman who endured years of public vilification in part to mask his role as a secret agent.”
Did Crowley court public infamy to cover up his dealings with the government? If so it would certainly cast a new light on some of his actions, and make some detractors re-think his motivations.
Archie Bland of the Independent explores the ramifications of the new laws governing psychic practitioners in Britain. Bland wonders in the article if we aren’t asking the wrong questions as to who is a “bad psychic”.
“…perhaps the question should be recast to consider responsibility. Like the doctor, the sensible psychic’s first rule is probably to do no harm, and while there may be no such thing as a good medium to the ardent materialist, the contrast between those who have a code and those who don’t – between the tactful and the terrifying, the reasonable and the rip-off – is obvious to anyone.”
An interesting and sympathetic look at psychic practitioners and the people who frequent them from an unbiased journalist.
The New York Times has a very nice piece on the dedication of a new Hindu temple on Staten Island in New York (the first for that community).
“For Staten Island’s growing Hindu population, a couple of hours more was not long to wait to finally have its own major temple. After 10 years of worship in private homes and community meeting halls and the not-quite-finished structure of the temple itself on Victory Boulevard, the Staten Island Hindu Temple was formally consecrated in a clangorous three-day ceremony that ended on Sunday. For the 500 Hindu families from all over India who live scattered across the island, the days of having to travel to Queens or Edison, N.J., to worship are over.”
Perhaps we will someday be reading similar stories about the dedication of Pagan temples.
In a final note, the recently renewed gay marriage debate has caused some to connect it with the slow move into a truly post-Christian society. For exa
mple, conservative Christian commentator Rod Dreher claims we are living in a “pagan” sensate culture that will inevitably allow for gay marriage and that the best conservative Christians can do is move to a “defensible position” and wait it out.
“Well, it’s cold comfort, but this can’t go on forever. [Pitirim] Sorokin argues that once sensate culture plays itself out, people will have to yield to an ideational model of some sort. It is doubtful that any culture can long survive without strong, traditional families and durable moral norms based in a transcendental source. Our civilization’s prosperity has masked its social weaknesses.”
Of course there is no promise that any future dominant “ideational” culture will be a Christian one. There are myriad ways to approach perceived “social weakness”, and for thousands of years before Christ was born, those ways were “pagan” ways. Meanwhile, Nick Street at Religion Dispatches argues that the battle over gay marriage has little to do with a moral marriage crisis and a lot to do with the erosion of Biblical authority over American culture.
“…the impulse behind the movement’s anti-gay activism doesn’t really have much to do with marriage and sexuality … The real issues are the authority of the Bible and the nature of revelation … a lot is at stake in a political initiative with deep roots in the foundations of canonical Christianity. If religious conservatives can’t persuade a majority of Californians to heed one element in an otherwise obscure list of purity codes in Deuteronomy – and that Jesus’ preaching in the gospels isn’t really complete without Paul’s finger-wagging in Romans – the stitching that holds together the disparate parts of the Good Book will have subtly but irrevocably loosened, along with the Bible’s centuries-old grip on American public life.”
Christian conservatives are using their remaining weapons of fear-mongering and moral revulsion to hold back the post-Christian tide (of which gay marriage is a potent symbol), but it seems that just about everyone agrees that while Christian activists may win the constitutional battle in California, the larger war is all but lost.
That is all I have for now, have a great day!