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FLOTUS, BBQ & NC

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In an e-mail announcing the choice of Charlotte, N.C., as the host city for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, First Lady Michelle Obama noted that the choice means everyone will have good BBQ. Thus, did the First Lady plunge herself into the BBQ wars.

East of Raleigh, BBQ sauce is vinegar-based. West of Raleigh, BBQ sauce is ketchup-based. The two sides of the state have been fighting for years over which is better. Me? I am not a big fan of sauce and prefer to BBQ spareribs and brisket with a dry rub. Pork butt, for pulled-pork sandwiches, does require a BBQ sauce unless, as I have been doing recently, you cook the pork butt Puerto Rican style, as a pernil, with lots of oregano and garlic. No BBQ sauce needed.

We all have our BBQ preferences but the most important thing to remember about BBQ is this. There is no BBQ more delicious than the BBQ on the plate in front of you!

When Presidents Must Preach:Obama at Prayer Breakfast

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The National Prayer Breakfast, held yesterday here in Washington, is a strange event. It is not held in a church, but in a hotel ballroom. It is not organized by a church or by a coalition of churches, but by a shadowy, quasi-religious organization known as “The Family.” And, most disconcertingly, it places the President in the role of a preacher, the Constitution notwithstanding.

The Prayer Breakfasts began during the Eisenhower Administration. It was the former General who best expressed the lowest common denominator approach to American religious pluralism, famously saying that “government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.” This expression of religious indifferentism was inoffensive to most, expressing perfectly that amorphous phenomenon known as “American civic religion.”

Religious Illiteracy At WaPo (Again!)

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In this free country of ours, everyone is permitted to be as literate about religion as they wish, and they are entitled to remain in complete and utter darkness about religious doctrines. But, you would think that a religion writer for one of America's leading newspapers might be at least a little familiar with one of the central intellectual issues facing religion in the modern age, how believers do and do not grapple with science, and specifically, the theory of evolution.
But, you would think wrong. Julia Duin at the Washington Post reduces all religion to a fundamentalist caricature. Mark Silk at BeliefNet provides the takedown.
I have a question for the editors at the Post. Would they permit such shoddy reporting on any other topic? Could a science reporter know so little about her field? Or a sports reporter? We have come a long way since Dayton, Tennessee, but Duin's caricatures of religion are little different from those offered by Mencken back then. At least Mencken was funny. Duin's column is merely pathetic.

InsideCatholic Goes Crazy

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Earlier this morning, I noted that conservatives like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have become even more unhinged than usual over events in the Mideast, warning of the return of the Caliphate and the imposition of Sharia worldwide.

Well, over at InsideCatholic, John Zmirak one ups the Fox News duo with a screed that has something stupid, offensive, repugnant or evil in almost every paragraph. In his attempt to link Pat Buchanan's "pitchfork brigades" with today's Tea Party, be brings together a host of rightwing phobias, often in the same sentence even though they derive from different decades, e.g., when he warns of "tens of millions more freshly minted affirmative action recipients and future Democrats flooding across the border." I seem to recall Ronald Reagan signing a relatively pro-immigration measure in the 1980s, and I do not recall John McCain denouncing affirmative action in 2008.

Rand Paul vs. the Evangelicals

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According to a report at Politico, Sen. Rand Paul has been flooded with calls from evangelicals protesting his suggestion that U.S. aid to Israel be cut. I am no fan of John Hagee - whose views of Catholicism are somewhat eccentric also - and I am quite sure he and I support Israel for different reasons, but he is right to call out Sen. Paul whose neo-isolationism is as repugnant today as the original was when it was spouted by Charles Lindbergh in the 1930s.

Democracy: Yes, But Not Enough

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Back in the early 1980s, when I was first studying politics here at the Catholic University of America, I recall the bafflement that attended some of my first encounters with Marxist thought. There was something unreal about the way Marxist analysis and ideas were presented. Marxist ideas were defended in articles and books in purely theoretical terms, as if it was somehow impolite to ask the simple question by which all political ideas should be judged: How do people live in countries where these ideas dominate? By the early 1980s, the verdict was in on Marxism. It was a failure and the people who lived under it lived miserable lives. I had a hard time giving much credence to ideas that yielded such misery in practice.

CREW Calls For Prayer Breakfast Boycott

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The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has called upon the President and congressional leaders to boycott the National Prayer Breakfast scheduled for tomorrow. In an open letter to the leading politicians, CREW notes that the Prayer Breakfast is sponsored by a "shadowy religious association" known alternately as "The Family" or "The Fellowship." The group, among other things, runs a rooming house for members of Congress, some of whom have found themselves the focus of ethics investigations. As well, a prominent member of "The Family" helped lead the effort in Uganda to pass a law that would make homosexuality a capital crime. In the wake of the recent murder of a gay rights activist in Uganda, the organization's reputation is especially in tatters at the moment, better to say, more in tatters.
Here is a copy of the letter.

Orrin Hatch & the Tea Party Minefield

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Politico has a great article about veteran Sen. Orrin Hatch and how he is trying to navigate the minefield laid down by the Tea Party. You can bet his friendship with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, to say nothing of their co-authorship of legislation to deliver health insurance to children, will be the focus of the Tea Party attack on Hatch. You can also bet that the usually reasonable Hatch will become increasingly unreasonable on issues like immigration. A few years back, he co-sponsored the DREAM Act, but those days are gone.

Gingrich Barred From Catholic Colleges

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No, of course, former Speaker, and new Catholic, Newt Gingrich has not been barred from speaking at Catholic colleges or universities, and I am not holding my breathe that he will be. Nor, do I think he should be. But, he spent much of last night debating immigration reform in a way that "wounds the unity" of the Church on this important moral issue. He has "gone behind the back" of the bishops. He has been "disloyal" to the bishops' on this issue, in danger of setting up a "parallel magisterium." Not bad for someone who was a Baptist five minutes ago.
Of course, Mr. Gingrich's way of being a Catholic is different from mine. And, he is completely and thoroughly wrong on immigration. But, he has every right to hold the views he does and no Catholic college wounds its Catholic identity by having this dissenter on its campus.

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