A Few Quick Notes

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I have a few news items to start off your Saturday, beginning with a story that’s spread like wildfire through the political and religious blogospheres gaining mainstream coverage, and its all about prayer. Specifically its about “imprecatory prayer”, the Christian equivalent to malefic “black” magic (you’re basically asking God to kill, maim, or trouble some person). While there have been a few high-profile imprecatory prayer stories popping up lately, the most recent centers on a meme and line of merchandise urging people to “pray” for President Barack Obama, invoking the biblical Psalm 109:8 “let his days be few; and let another take his office”. It seems rather harmless as imprecatory prayers go until you read the rest of the psalm in question.

“It was, most likely, intended as a joke.  But it isn’t really very funny.  Especially since the next verse reads, “May his children be orphans, and his wife a widow.”  The passage goes on the same way–asking God to pulverize this poor fellow–that he lose all his worldly goods, that his orphans be abandoned, that his father be remembered as a sinner, and finally, that “his memory be cut off from the earth.” Thus, the “Prayer for Obama,” does more than anticipate that he leaves office; it entreats God to destroy the president.”

Supporters and opponents of this prayer are battling it out at Cafe Press, with stores being removed and reinstated. Meanwhile, pundits are split on whether this is harmless fun, or yet another sign that far-right Christianity is coming unglued and “trawling for assassins”. How should Pagans and occultists, many of whom believe in the power of magic and intention, react to these sort of stories? Harmless? Or the beginning of a particularly nasty egregore?

Turning from prayer to more material conflicts over belief, Chas Clifton reports on a Russian Orthodox priest who was recently murdered in his church. 34-year-old Daniil Sysoyev was missionary who bragged of converting 80 Muslims personally, and wrote several books critical of Islam, gaining many death-threats in the process. But while this seems a rather open-and-shut case of a Russian Muslim taking revenge against a firebrand converter of Muslims, authorities are also looking at other groups, like Russian Pagans.

“Sysoyev also worked with former members of religious sects and wrote a book on Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovahs’ Witnesses. He also spoke out against nationalists and Stalinists, whom he criticized on his blog for ignoring the murder of innocent people.”

None of the articles specifically mentions Pagans when they mention “various religious sects”, but the ABC article links the phrase to another report they did on Russian Pagans, so they must know something we don’t. Clifton points out that Russian Pagans do come into direct conflict with the Russian Orthodoxy and “are more likely to have their own line of “blood and soil” rhetoric and to claim that they represent the true spirituality of their people”. All that said, I’m siding with Occam’s razor on this one, so the Russian Pagans and hard-liner Stalinists most likely have little to worry about during the investigation.

In a final note, it looks like “Agora”, which centers on the life (and death) of Neoplatonist pagan philosopher Hypatia, has finally found an American distributor and will hit theaters in early 2010.

“Alejandro Amenabar’s intellectual epic that had sat without a U.S. buyer for six months, has found a stateside home. Newmarket Films has picked up U.S. rights to the Rachel Weisz starrer and is prepping a release for the first half of 2010.”

Distribution deals finally materialized after the film starting doing far better than expected in European markets. So we’ll finally get a chance to see “Agora” on the big screen, anyone want to place bets on if/when it will gain American protesters?