Bart Simpson Donates $5 million to Scientologists

Er, rather, the actor that plays Bart, Nancy Cartwright, did, according to London’s Daily Mirror. According to the tabloid: Cartwright, 60, donated twice as much as Tom Cruise, 45 – Scientology’s most high-profile member. The US actress, who is rumoured to earn £125,500 per episode of The Simpsons, gave the equivalent of almost two years’ wages. Other big donors were Kirstie Alley, £2.5million, John Travolta and wife Kelly Preston, £1million. I have no idea how they know this.

A Tortuous Debate

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture is at it again, criticizing Attorney General Mukasey for not saying that waterboarding is torture. “The Attorney General today essentially said that the definition of torture depends on the information being sought,” said Linda Gustitus, NRCAT’s president, adding that Mukasey’s position is “wrong spiritually, morally, and legally.”

You’ll Find that Under “C” for Controversy

It seems the Danes are going to preserve those incendiary Muhammad cartoons for posterity by housing them in the Royal Library. The cartoons, you’ll remember, ran in a Danish newspaper and sparked violent riots all over the world, but espeically among aggrieved European Muslims who thought they insulted Islam’s prophet. “We hope we can secure all of the works to preserve them for the future. The caricatures have become a part of Danish history,” Jytte Kjaergaard, a Royal Library spokeswoman, told The Art Newspaper.

Jesus for President

Jesus wants your vote-and he needs a running mate RNS’ Matthew Streib looks at a new website which posits Jesus as a presidential candidate in 2008, and which attempts to infer what political positions the candidate might have, in this week’s full text article, linked above. Quote: “Would Jesus care about 30,000 children dying worldwide from poverty every day or would he care about a gay marriage amendment in Ohio? That’s a fair question.”

Obama and the Jews

My colleague Ron Kiener has an excellent analysis on his blog of Obama’s “Jewish problem,” making use of the Florida exit polls. There does seem to be a widespread impression that Obama is soft on support for Israel, fueled in no small part by ugly emails circulating around the Internet. The organized Jewish community clearly denounced these emails two weeks ago. Among the latest to address the anti-Obama campaign is Martin Peretz, editor in chief of the New Republic and as staunch a supporter of Israel as one is likely to find this side of the loony bin. The headline of his piece is “Can Friends of Israel–and Jews–Trust Obama?”

B.Y.O.B. to the Vatican

It’s said that George W. Bush won the presidency because he was the candidate with whom most voters would have liked to share a beer (even though he’d been on the wagon since 1986). There’s no sign that the College of Cardinals elected Pope Benedict XVI for similar reasons, but the Bavarian-born pontiff is said to enjoy his brew. That’s why the Anglican Archbishop of York, in Rome last week to pray for Christian unity, presented Benedict with some choice products of a brewery in his archdiocese. Giving the pope something called “Holy Grail” ale might seem at least a bit irreverent, even when the donor is a fellow churchman. It’s even more startling when you know that the full name of the beverage in question is “Monty Python’s Holy Grail.”

What Hinckley Begat

Time’s Dan van Biema has a piece on the significant legacy of LDS President Gordon Hinckley. The article relies on Spiritual Politics contributor Jan Shipps’ expertise and hypothesizes that without Hinckley a Mormon’s presidential campaign would not gain traction outside LDS locales. van Biema on Romney: "But were it not for Hinckley’s relentless 20-year publicity campaign to assure fellow Christians that Mormons, as he insisted, were not "weird," Romney would have had a much more difficult time overcoming the impression that many have of his faith."

Noo Yawk

New York City is an ethno-religious wonderland, and for a little look into what’s going on there in the run-up to Super Tuesday, take a look at this, from Daily News blogger Elizabeth Benjamin.

What Happened to Huck?

Vanity Fair’s James Wolcott has this dispeptic assessment of the Huckabee failure:The zombie march of Giuliani’s and Fred Thompson’s maladroit campaigns will entrance political dissecters for seasons to come but less remarked is the misguided direction the Huckabee campaign took after its win in Iowa. Despite his financial disadvantages, Huckabee had a real opportunity to bust open and make himself a real player and what does he do?–instead of broadening his appeal and message and opening up his passing game, he escorts himself down a narrow lane to the frayed, far-right fringe by crudely pandering on the tired old Confederate flag controversy (“If somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell them what to do with the pole”–this from a preacher man) and proposing a pet list of fatuous, unpassable Constitutional amendments. He became Duncan Hunter with a grin, a most unappetizing combination day or night.But I wonder to what extent Huck could have broadened “his appeal and message,” given the nature of GOP primary voters. What seemed to happen was that he, or his advisers (e.g. Ed Rollins) seemed to push him away from the things that had broadened his appeal in the first place–at least his appeal to journalistic types. Then, after getting beaten up for being soft on immigrants, he turned hard.

At the Reagan Library

God made one fleeting appearance at the Republican debate last night, when (surprise!) Mike Huckabee said, “[P]eople in this country I think are grateful to God they’re in a land that people are trying to break into and not one they’re trying to break out of.” Now that caucus and primary results have come in from states around the country, the main religious questions in the GOP race–how does the white evangelical base of the party respond to Romney and to Huckabee?–have become empirical rather than speculative, answerable via the exit polls. It would be a nice irony next Tuesday if evangelicals, streaming away from Huck as an also-ran, were the ones to keep the Romney candidacy alive.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2008 Religion News Service Presbyterians test new rules on gay clergy (RNS) Minnesota Presbyterians have voted to restore the ordination of an openly gay man who has refused to pledge celibacy, the latest test of revamped pastoral guidelines in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Paul Capetz, a seminary professor, asked to be removed from ministry in 2000 after the PCUSA voted to require that ministers be married to a member of the opposite sex or remain celibate. But changes made in 2006 to the Presbyterians’ Book of Order allow candidates for ordination to declare a conscientious objection to church rules. Local presbyteries, or governing bodies, then must decide whether the objection “constitutes a failure to adhere to the essentials of Reformed faith and polity.” On Saturday (Jan.

Church suppers change to meet changing needs

c. 2008 Religion News Service AKRON, Ohio _ Andrew Hamilton can still taste the homemade apple, cherry and peach pies that capped off the church suppers of his youth in Lakeville, Mass. Those were the days when children played on their own for hours while adults spent Sunday afternoons in conversation. The church seemed like one big family, said Hamilton, 44, pastor of Akron’s Springfield Church of the Brethren. Every Thursday night, his church opens its weekly supper to the community, and about a third of those who attend aren’t even church members.

Church suppers change to meet changing needs

c. 2008 Religion News Service (UNDATED) This year, Easter is as early as it can be in Western churches; we’re barely over Christmas and Lent is already upon us. Just before the Lenten fasting begins, there’s one last chance to celebrate. The customs range from country to country, but whether Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Carnaval in Brazil, it’s one big party until Ash Wednesday. During Carnaval in Brazil, moneyed aristocrats dress up as commoners, and the poor masquerade as princes.

Church suppers change to meet changing needs

c. 2008 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Documentary filmmaker Alex Kronemer wants to help end the clash of civilizations, a battle he says he’s witnessed in one form or another since childhood. His Jewish father and Christian mother divorced and succumbed to religious mud-slinging. His mother’s Protestant ministers asserted most people were going to hell, souring his view on religion even more. But as Kronemer continued seeking faith, he found it in Islam.

A pastor walks into a bar …

c. 2008 Religion News Service CARLISLE, Pa. _ Perhaps the last person you want to see at the bar is your minister. Or maybe that’s just what you need. Chuck Kish, 44, a senior pastor at the Bethel Assembly of God here, is launching a program at a local pub next month to put chaplains in bars.