Southern Religion


Follow the Exodus from Egypt one tweet at a time. “The story comes to life” March 16-29, at @TweetTheExodus. This corresponds to Rosh Chodesh Nisan. It culminates with the crossing of the Red Sea. Passover begins at sundown on March 29.

Rabbi Oren Hayon explains via Facebook that, “collaborating with Jewish professionals around the country, all of whom will play the part of one of the Exodus’s major characters, we will create an experience that allows our followers to reenact this inspiring story in totally new ways.”


March 10, 2010 Posted by | Israel, WWW | , , | Comments Off on TweetTheExodus

Israel reqests Vatican wartime archives on Pius XII be opened

Open the Vatican’s WWII archives so that questions about the WW II papacy of Pius XII can be answered and Catholic/Jewish tension reduced, was Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom’s request to Pope Benedict on Sunday.

This shortly after the pope’s visit to the main Jewish synagogue in Rome, Italy, where by way of welcome the president of Rome’s Jewish community, Riccardo Pacifici, told him “the silence of Pius XII before the Shoah [Holocaust], still hurts because something should have been done.

“Maybe it would not have stopped the death trains, but it would have sent a signal, a word of extreme comfort, of human solidarity, towards those brothers of ours transported to the ovens of Auschwitz,” Pacifici said.

The pope replied that the Vatican helped Jews and “provided assistance, often in a hidden and discreet way.” He also asked forgiveness for the church’s contribution to anti-Semitism and urged Jews and Christians “to come together to strengthen the bonds which unite us and to continue to travel together along the path of reconciliation and fraternity.”

Israel’s answer, then, is something like “Good. Prove it.” And a review of Reuter’s timeline of Vatican-Jewish relations shows how the rising Catholic/Jewish tension of the Joseph Ratzinger papacy led to Israel’s request and provoked some (notably Rabbi Giuseppe Laras, president of Italy’s rabbinical assembly) to boycott the pope’s visit to the Rome synagogue. They were aware that the pope had been unilaterally invited, but would not accept his “clarification” of the decision to recognize the “heroic virtues” of Pius XII.

Tension over the matter can also be seen in B’nai B’rith Europe’s online petition opposing beatification of Pius XII.

The issue also provoked a request in 2005 by Jewish leaders to open the Vatican’s WW II archives when Pope Benedict visited the Cologne synagogue.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi last month tried to excuse keeping the archives closed:

In this specific case it is comprehensible that there should be a request to have open access to all possibilities of research on the documents. Yet for the complete opening of the archives– as has been said on a number of occasions in the past– it is necessary to organize and catalog an enormous mass of documentation, something which still requires a number of years’ work.

Six and a half decades after the close of the period in question?

One need not be Jewish to wonder why the archives would not be opened now when it is clear that there is not only no resolution like well-verified truth, but also no likely resolution to this matter but a public review of those archival materials.

January 18, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, History, Israel | , , , | 2 Comments

Christian Right reassertion [fail]

Christian Right spokesmen, several Southern Baptist Convention leaders and a few others sent an open letter Tuesday calling for actions against Iran which mirror the recommendations of Republicans published in the Washington Post. Both called for trade sanctions to discourage Iran from further nuclear arms development.

Both sets of recommendations were timed to coincide with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s arrival in New York for a Sept. 23 address to the United Nations and a meeting with leaders of Group of 20 leading industrial nations, which are to meet for Thursday and Friday in Pittsburgh. And neither made substantial new policy recommendation.

In their news release about the letter, the group said:

In a remarkable ecumenical and bipartisan display of unity, Christian leaders representing over 28 million evangelicals, Roman Catholics, and other Christians have sent a letter to Congress today and other key world leaders calling for urgent action to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The letter urges a total arms embargo and a cut off of exports of refined petroleum products, including gasoline, as a firm yet peaceful measure against the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

The group is profoundly conservative, and lacks significant Democratic representation. As a result, terming itself “bipartisan” is an abuse of the term. Likewise, the group is more ideologically consistent than ecumenistic, as can be seen from the list of what Associated Baptist Press writer Bob Allen characterized as “lead signatories:”

Pat Robertson, president of the Christian Broadcasting Network; Charles Colson, chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries; and Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention [SBC].

Just the usual Religious Right suspects.

SBC names on the letter ranged from convention president Johnny Hunt to one of the originators of the SBC commitment to conservatism:

… Paul Pressler, a retired judge from Texas and one of the architects of the “conservative resurgence” movement that gained control of the nation’s largest non-Catholic faith group in the 1980s.

The letter made strident predictions, dutifully quoted by Allen. For example:

“A nuclear-armed Iran is almost certain to initiate an arms race with other Middle Eastern and Arab nations who have reason to fear the religious, political and military ambitions of Iran’s extremist leaders,” the letter said. “As the world’s leading state sponsor of international terror, we must assume Iran will sell or give nuclear weapons to extremist groups that are declared and demonstrated enemies to America and her allies.”

Visits to other sources were required to learn of Obama administration policies. The Christian Science Monitor reported, for example, that Iran was reluctant to discuss its nuclear program and the Obama administration planned to force that discussion:

The US insists it will raise the topic during any talks. “This may not have been a topic that they wanted to be brought up but I can assure that it’s a topic that we’ll bring up,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters on Saturday.

Some UN officials regard as inflammatory and unjustified predictions like those in the Christian Right letter. For example, Newsweek reported:

In a private e-mail sent last week to nuclear experts and obtained by NEWSWEEK, Tariq Rauf, a senior official with the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, wrote that the mainstream media are repeating mistakes from 2003, when they “carried unsubstantiated stories on Iraq and WMD—the same mistakes are being repeated re IAEA and Iran.” Rauf added that “the hype is likely originating from certain (known) sources.” The message does not specify the sources, but U.S. and European officials have previously accused Israel of exaggerating Iran’s nuclear progress.

Western intelligence agencies are sharing reports about Iranian efforts to acquire weapons-related technology but disagree about what they mean. Most officials doubt Tehran is pursuing nuclear technology entirely for benign purposes. Israel doubts it, too, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signaled that his patience is limited. [U.N. Ambassador Susan] Rice said no one is giving up on diplomacy, adding, “We have other tools.” U.S. options could include stepping up sanctions …

What the Christian Right letter added to the debate, other than heat and an attempt to reassert the group’s political significance, is altogether unclear.

September 23, 2009 Posted by | Israel, Obama, Politics, Religion, SBC | , | Comments Off on Christian Right reassertion [fail]

Obama’s dethroning of Osama bin Laden

In Commonweal, an independent magazine edited and managed by lay Catholics, Jack Miles writes:

President George W. Bush first used the fateful phrase “war on terror” in an address to Congress on September 20, 2001, identifying what he later called “the defining struggle of our time.” And though initially the 9/11 attacks united the West while embarrassing and dividing the Muslim world, in time the rhetoric of a “war on terror” reversed those terms. With just three words, the president managed to transform Osama bin Laden from a criminal fugitive into a historic military commander, the head of a new, potentially world-changing army of fanatics. The subsequent invasion of Iraq, centerpiece of the Bush war on terror, only confirmed bin Laden in many Muslim eyes as a Saladin rather than a mass murderer.

Erasing the phrase “war on terror” from the U.S. diplomatic lexicon, the Obama administration has both dethroned Bin Laden and “replaced a grandiose, counterproductive fantasy with realistic attention to a set of grievous but real problems,” Smith argues.

Read the entire piece: After the War on Terror.

August 27, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, History, Israel, Obama, Religion | , , , | 1 Comment

Huckabee and the fate of the Palestinians

The Jerusalem Post called Mike Huckabee’s rejection of a two-state Israel/Palestine solution as a challenge to “the policies of both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama.”

Harvard’s Stephen M. Walt wrote in Foreign Policy:

Given that current demographic trends suggest that Arabs will be a majority in the lands currently controlled by Israel in the not-too-distant future, Huckabee is either endorsing ethnic cleansing or calling for the permanent denial of democratic rights to the Arab residents of the Occupied Territories, which is a form of apartheid. Either way, he is no friend of Israel, and the policies he’s endorsing will do great damage to US interests throughout the region.

Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution offered demographic detail:

At current estimates, there are 2.3 million Arabs living in the occupied West Bank and 1.4 million Arabs in the Gaza Strip, in addition to 1.5 million Arabs living within Israel’s internationally recognized boundaries. In fact, there are probably more Arabs living in the “Jewish homeland” than there are Jews. To achieve the single-state, Jewish-state solution proposed by Huckabee, one of two things must happen. The Palestinians would have to either go or stay.

Go, or stay?

Huckabee’s hosts have a preference, it seems. Huckabee was was the guest of the Jewish Reclamation Project of Ateret Cohanim, a Zionist group.

Bob Allen of Ethics Daily wrote in an article published today:

Former presidential candidate and possible vice presidential nominee Mike Huckabee visited Israel as a guest of a right-wing Zionist group that is buying up property to move Jews into Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter in hopes of replacing the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque with a reconstruction of Solomon’s Temple and ushering in the Messianic Age.

Although Richard Silverstein goes deeper in his probing of Huckabee’s hosts.

Huckabee’s stance is no surprise. A Southern Baptist Minister is to be expected to base his foreign policy views on his faith.

Huckabee is quite conservative. His views brought him and his hosts together and lead him toward the kinds of solutions which concern Walt and others. Views about which simple humanity may have reasonable concerns.

With no reference to Huckabee, Tony Cartledge wrote Monday in a blog based on Alex Awad’s book, Palestinian Memories: The Story of a Palestinian Mother and Her People:

I have a lot of sympathy for Israel and the Israelis — don’t get me wrong. But I also have a great deal of sympathy for the Palestinians who continue to be displaced and dominated in ways that are wrong in the sight of God and man. The West has perpetrated unspeakable crimes against the Jews through the years — but trying to balance the scales on the backs of the Palestinians just adds one great crime to another.

August 19, 2009 Posted by | History, Israel, Obama, Politics | , , | Comments Off on Huckabee and the fate of the Palestinians

Passover: ‘Remember this day …’

"The Jews' Passover"—facsimile of a miniature from a 15th century missal, ornamented with paintings of the School of Van Eyck

The Jews at Passover: A facsimile of a miniature from a 15th century missal, ornamented with paintings of the School of Van Eyck

April 8, 2009 Posted by | Israel, Religion | | Comments Off on Passover: ‘Remember this day …’

Israel Defense Force soul searching about Gaza

A squad leader said in the Haaretz investigation

You do not get the impression from the officers that there is any logic to it, but they won’t say anything. To write ‘death to the Arabs’ on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can. I think this is the main thing: To understand how much the IDF has fallen in the realm of ethics, really. It’s what I’ll remember the most.

These are horrors. Their unveiling cannot undo the slaughter of children or other crimes. Yet display on a stage of national conscience, and all that can follow from that, may yet be redemptive.

March 20, 2009 Posted by | Israel, Religion | , | 1 Comment