The Libertarian Recipe

Taking the opportunity on Politico to say What the GOP Needs to Do, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford offers his version of timeless Republican principles that must be returned to:Some on the left will say our electoral losses are a repudiation of our principles of lower taxes, smaller government and individual liberty. But Election Day was not a rejection of those principles — in fact, cutting taxes and spending were important tenets of Barack Obama’s campaign.Conspicuous by its absence here is any mention of social conservatism (or, for that matter, foreign policy conservatism). Sanford is an Episcopalian who went so far as to express opposition to South Carolina’s new “I Believe” license plate (though he couldn’t bring himself to veto the legislation authorizing it). As his citation of “individual liberty” indicates, he speaks for the Ron Paul corner of the party. It’s got its enthusiasts, of course, but in the large Republican scheme of things is not to be taken seriously.

Precious Personal Property

Among the guilty pleasures of this post-election season is the contemplation of flagrantly mistaken predictions of how Barack Obama wouldn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t win first the Democratic primary and then the general election campaign (currently being collected by Andrew Sullivan under his running “Von Hoffman Award” head). Such stuff from campaign insiders like Mark Penn is to be expected, but academic experts should know better, no? No. Or at least not if they’ve hitched their wagon to, say, the Clintons–like Princeton historian Sean Wilenz. Wilenz, who emerged from the Groves of Nassau to assail Bill Clinton’s impeachers a decade ago, raged against Obamania for much of the election season, prognosticated its failure, and now can’t bring himself to own up to his cloudiness of vision.

Exceptionalism

Another candidate for RNC chairman, South Carolina party chair Katon Dawson, has posted his manifesto, which includes the following call:Renew our commitment to our Party’s timeless principles…by reconfirming our commitment to be the party of smaller government, lower taxes, individual freedom, strong national security, respect for the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, the importance of family and the exceptionalism of America. So far as I know, this is the first time American exceptionalism has, as such, been nominated as a timeless partisan principle, but I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. What was once a term of art employed by historians and political scientists to debate the distinctiveness of the American thing has over the past few years been embraced by conservatives as an article of national faith. Thus NRO’s Victor David Hansen, writing just after the 2004 election:George Bush—through the beheadings, the kidnappings, Abu Ghraib, the hysteria of a Richard Clark, Joe Wilson, Anonymous, Rathergate, the 9/11 Commission, CIA rogue analysts, cheap European slurs, insane remarks from Walter Cronkite to Bill Moyers, and last-minute media fabricated “scandals”—has never faltered, so confident was he in the exceptionalism of America and the unshakeable resolve and competence of the U.S. military. More recently, Sarah Palin used the term to attack Barack Obama as unAmerican:Our opponent …

Sheng Yen

Chinese Buddhist Master Sheng Yen has hardly led a charmed life. As he recounts in his new memoir “Footprints in the Snow,” he grew up poor in rural China, was conscripted to fight communists in the nationalist army, and lived homeless on the streets of the Bronx, N.Y.
Nonetheless, Sheng Yen, a master of Chan Buddhism (more commonly known in the West by its Japanese name “Zen”) has become one of the most influential contemporary Buddhist masters, with luminaries like the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh singing his praises. Sheng Yen answered questions by e-mail about Buddhism, meditation and politics. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity. Q: How is meditation separate from faith?

Forty years later, Merton’s legacy looms large

TRAPPIST, Ky.-Around the country this month and next, many Roman Catholics will be remembering and honoring Trappist monk Thomas Merton, who died in a freak accident 40 years ago. Merton, who influenced generations of believers with both his monastic lifestyle and his prodigious writings, was especially important for bringing spirituality to the laity.

Alleged church shooter sought anonymity in Ga. town

NEWARK, N.J. -After gunning down his wife, her cousin and a would-be rescuer in a Clifton, N.J., church, Joseph Pallipurath dumped his pistol, abandoned his Jeep and stepped aboard a bus with the hopes of fading into obscurity, said authorities who nabbed the accused fugitive early Tuesday (Nov. 25).

COMMENTARY: Now thank we all our God …

Whether you believe in God or not, Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to hit the cosmic pause button and take stock of your blessings, or graces, or plenty. And it’s also a time to build bridges, if only for the span of a dinner party. (Cathleen Falsani is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, and author of the new book “Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace.”)

Son of God ISO gainful employment

That wacky Jim Martin up at America magazine says he’s stumbled across Jesus’ interview with the Obama transition team about a place in the new administration. But there’s the small matter of that political appointee questionnaire that everyone says is so intrusive. From Jim’s meeting notes: 6.) If you or your spouse have performed any work for any foreign government, please describe the circumstances. Cured servant of Roman centurion, but received no payment. Technically, Rome not “foreign” government in Palestine, so should present no legal problem (Might appeal to Italian-Americans, too).

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2008 Religion News Service Foundation announces $600,000 in “Life Prizes’ (RNS) A Massachusetts foundation has announced the first recipients of $600,000 in “Life Prizes” to honor people and organizations that support anti-abortion causes. Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, and Kay Coles James, a former director of the Office of Personnel Management in President Bush’s first term, are among the people honored by the Gerard Health Foundation of Natick, Mass. “The accomplishments of these pro-life heroes are diverse, valiant, and nothing short of inspiring,” said Raymond Ruddy, president of the foundation. “They are the movement’s most successful champions of life and their achievements will inspire future pro-life generations to be bold and brilliant in undertaking the many challenges that lie ahead in spreading a culture of life.” The other winners include the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Margaret “Peggy” Hartshorn, president of Heartbeat International, a network of pregnancy resource centers; Jill Stanek, a prominent anti-abortion blogger; and Lila Rose, founder of Live Action, a student anti-abortion organization.

40 years later, Merton’s legacy looms large

c. 2008 Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly TRAPPIST, Ky. _ Around the country for the next few weeks, many Roman Catholics will remember and honor the life of Trappist monk Thomas Merton, who died 40 years ago on Dec. 10, 1968, in a freak electrocution accident. Merton, who influenced generations of believers with both his monastic lifestyle and his prodigious writings _ some 60 books were published during his lifetime, and about as many in the 40 years since his death_ is especially noted for bringing spirituality to the laity.

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U.S.-Vatican relationship to shift under Obama White House

c. 2008 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ In the 24 years since the U.S. and the Holy See established full diplomatic ties, relations have never been closer or warmer than during the administration of President George W. Bush. The two sides broke over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, but Bush’s personal esteem for Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and his agreement with Catholic teaching on such controversial issues as abortion, embryonic stem cell research and same-sex marriage, have fostered a special rapport. Bush has met a total of six times with the leader of the Catholic Church, more often than any other American president. That relationship is bound to change in January with the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, whose support for abortion rights and embryonic stem cell research has drawn denunciations from a number of church leaders.

COMMENTARY: Now thank we all our God …

c. 2008 Religion News Service (UNDATED) It probably wasn’t the last Thursday in November, and there was no pumpkin pie. The Thanksgiving turkey was more likely a Thanksgiving goose, duck or even a crane. And there were no potatoes _ sweet, mashed, candied or otherwise _ on the menu for the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621. So say various historians and the folks at Snopes.com, who make it a point at this time of year to try to separate fact from mythology when it comes to what is arguably America’s most beloved national holiday.

Warren talks global health with first couple

In August, it was megachurch leader Rick Warren with then-presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. Three and a half months later, on World AIDS Day, the best-selling author will host a forum on global health with two other big names in politics: President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush. On Monday (Dec. 1) at the Newseum in Washington, Warren is scheduled to lead a conversation with the first couple about HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. During the forum, President-elect Barack Obama is scheduled to provide a videotaped message about the future of global health.