People of the book?

A depressing survey done by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life:

Americans are by all measures a deeply religious people, but they are also deeply ignorant about religion.

want some examples? Lookee here:

¶ Fifty-three percent of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the man who started the Protestant Reformation.

¶ Forty-five percent of Catholics did not know that their church teaches that the consecrated bread and wine in holy communion are not merely symbols, but actually become the body and blood of Christ.

¶ Forty-three percent of Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the foremost rabbinical authorities and philosophers, was Jewish.

How is it that adherents of religions based on reading and thinking in a time of low illiteracy rates, know so little about their own faith?

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“Is the pope saying this shit for a bet?” (edited)

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, second only to Pope Benedict, has *found* the reason for the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests:

“Many psychologists, many psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and paedophilia but many others have demonstrated, I was told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia. That is true. I have the documents of the psychologists. That is the problem.”

While this may just sound incredibly stupid, that kind of thinking (yes, the sad thing is that I think they do believe this nonsense) may lead to more problematic policies by the Church:

He added that some “surprising” initiatives regarding the sex abuse scandal would soon be revealed but did not elaborate.

Come to think of it, it may also just be another brazen assertion, such as other claims lanced by other Catholic officials during the past month. As one twitter said:

Vatican forgets that when you’re in a hole, you should stop digging

Or, another one

Is the pope saying this shit for a bet?

edit. We might be glad that none of the officials have so far succumbed to the typical Catholic theological (historically documented and recently revived by, oh, what a coincidence, the current pope) urges w/ respect to Jews, as this sickening example by a retired Italian bishop shows

We’re living in the Age of Globalization, and it seems that chutzpah, like latkes, isn’t just for Jews any longer. Last week, retired Bishop Giacomo Babini of the Italian town of Grosseto told the Catholic Pontifex website that the Catholic pedophile scandal is being orchestrated by the “eternal enemies of Catholicism, namely the freemasons and the Jews, whose mutual entanglements are not always easy to see through… I think that it is primarily a Zionist attack, in view of its power and refinement. They do not want the church, they are its natural enemies. Deep down, historically speaking, the Jews are God-killers.”

You might think that the 81-year-old Babini had already said more than enough for one day, but once some people “pop,” they just can’t stop. “The Holocaust was a shame for all of humanity,” the good bishop told the world, “but now we have to look at it without rhetoric and with open eyes. Don’t believe that Hitler was merely crazy. The truth is that the Nazis’ criminal fury was provoked by the Jews’ economic embezzlement, by which they choked the German economy.” He concluded that the Jews’ “guilt is graver than what Christ predicted would happen to them, saying ‘do not cry for me, but for your own children.'”

Arrogance

Despite initial “hopes for co-operation” the Vatican has fallen out with President Obama just days after his inauguration, accusing him of “arrogance” for overturning the “global gag rule” or ban on state funding for family-planning groups which facilitate abortions overseas.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said that with “the arrogance of someone who believes they are right”, Mr Obama had signed a decree which would “open the door to abortion and thus to the destruction of human life”.

He added: “What is important is to know how to listen, without locking oneself into ideological visions with the arrogance of a person who, having the power, thinks they can decide on life and death. If this is one of the first acts of President Obama, then with all due respect it seems to me that we are heading toward disappointment even more quickly than we thought”.

(from the Times) Note that this statement comes from the Catholic Church. methinks someone would do well with a tad self-awareness.

Ghosts of our Youth: On Hwang Song-yong’s "The Guest"

Hwang, Sok-yong (2001), Der Gast, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag
ISBN 978-3-423-24563-0
[translated from the Korean by Katrin Mensing, Young Lie and Matthias Augustin]

The well read among us are well acquainted with the presence of ghosts in literature, in good and bad books both. One of the best post 1945 novels employing that technique is Pedro Paramo. It’s this novel that Hwang Sok-yong’s novel reminded me most of, despite the numerous significant differences. I may be returning to this.

“The Guest” is about the time that Communism became the prevailing political ideology of North Korea, and about civil war like fights between fanatical Catholics and fanatical communists, both committing countless atrocities. The focus here is not, as usual and common in reports of atrocities committed by communists, on the evil reds. This tendency is so common in literature, especially with all the Gulag literature and the GDR literature, showing, iterating and reiterating ad nauseam just how unbearable life under socialism was, that I was irritated at the fact that it’s not the focus here, but ultimately positively surprised. Catholic fanatics. Well. What do you know.

The protagonist is an expat catholic priest, living in the US, who travels to Korea in his brother’s stead. His brother’s a catholic priest as well, apparently long tormented by guilt. He committed countless atrocities in his home country, murdering many communists in an attempt to seize control of their county before Communist backup arrived. The urgency of his youthful follies is apparent. The atheistic Communists, driven by an ideology that seemed imported from abroad, going against all traditions, political as well as religious, must have seemed an imminent danger to the priest-to-be.

The fact that they had large backers all across the country and abroad provided the urgency to do away with those in their home country once and for all. The same applies to the Communists, of course. After the brutal colonial rule of the Japanese, they looked to the north and east and saw new beginnings.They decided to make it new in their own country as well. And then the old retaliated, the old, politically as well as religious. Catholicism is so strict, so much of a ritual, that it’s the perfect fit for a religion that one sees as an obstacle, just like the Russian Orthodox Church was.

Both parties were in the wrong, so wrong it’s tough to find the right words for it, and yet one is tempted to refer to the atrociousness as “youthful folly”. Hwang Sok-yong found the perfect literary expression for this. There are so many problems with depicting the brutality en détail, not the least of which is the question whether a description will do justice to what happened, for the mind of the reader who is too young or too unkorean (yes, neologism) to remember. It’s like A.O. Scott’s musings on the American remake of Haneke’s classic “Funny Games”. The ghosts are the personified atrocities, they are the a Derridean trace (not really, I’m just joking), the personified lack. It shows to the reader who’s missing. Fathers, brothers, daughters, mothers. They are right there, looking him in the eye. And here’s where the author’s second brilliant move kicks in. He did not use the criminal brother as protagonists, even though he’s the one who originally saw the ghosts. He hands the reader a reader-like mirror, the brother who had nothing to do with it all.

For him, the ghosts help unravel the convoluted story, family tragedies, the tragedy of a country stumbling from one dark place to the next and then the following one. And they help us understand as well without trying to shock us with gratuitous violence. It’s not that I am not always up for copious amounts of violence, my deep adoration of Sarah Kane’s slim but brilliant oeuvre speaks for itself. But here this may be the wrong road to go down. Making the reader guess, look, see the lack and the aftermath has proven to be as effective a literary move as I’ve known, see for instance a work such as Semprun’s magisterial (ministerial) Le Grand Voyage. And it’s effective here. Read this book. While not as good as the abovementioned Pedro Paramo, which is absolutely mesmerizing, depicting a village tragedy as well, it’s something else. It’s necessary. Read it.

Protestantensau

Immer diese Moslems! Das hier in SPON

Wegen eines papstkritischen Liedes wird der evangelische Pfarrer und Liedermacher Clemens Bittlinger von katholischen Fundamentalisten mit Morddrohungen attackiert und im Internet wüst beschimpft. Die Polizei nimmt die Drohungen ernst.

In seinem Song “Mensch Benedikt” hält Bittlinger Benedikt XVI. unter anderem vor, durch die Ablehnung von Kondomen die Ausbreitung von Aids in Afrika zu fördern. Zudem kritisiert der Darmstädter Pfarrer und Liedermacher die Haltung des Papstes, keine andere Kirche neben der katholischen anzuerkennen. Seit Bittlinger seinen Song im Mai auf dem Osnabrücker Katholikentag aufführte, sind laut Informationen des SPIEGEL auf rechtskonservativen katholischen Internet-Seiten zornige Hinweise auf den Song erschienen.

Die Wutwelle habe ihn “vollkommen unerwartet” getroffen, sagt Bittlinger. In Drohschreiben wird der Songschreiber als “dreckige Protestantensau” bezeichnet, andere halten ihn für “vom Teufel besessen”, einen “Stinker” oder beklagen, keine “Aggressionen” gegen ihn “rauslassen” zu können. Die hessische Polizei nahm die Drohungen so ernst, dass sie ein Konzert unter Polizeischutz stellte und eine verdächtige Postsendung an ihn von einer Spezialeinheit öffnen ließ.

The Catholic Vote

Berlinerblau speculates

At 8:24 pm the Obama people sent out: “BREAKING: Obama Overperforms Among Catholics and Wins Protestants.” That claim was somewhat difficult to reconcile with the note I received at 9:28 from the opposing camp: “FYI: PA Religious Exit Polling – Clinton wins Catholic, Protestant and Jewish Voters.” This was followed at 10:38 by the rather un-Christian “FYI: Dallas Morning News Religion Blog: “Hillary Clinton whups [Barack Obama in the Largest Categories]”

Leaving the claims about Protestants aside for now, let me confirm that Clinton did in fact carry Catholics by a bruising 68% to 32%. This statistic is lending credence to a growing chorus of analysts who say Obama has a problem with this constituency.

We will, undoubtedly, be discussing this at length in coming weeks. Permit me to briefly float one explanation for this state of affairs. I wish to claim–and I stress this is a first-go hypothesis–that Obama fares poorly among Catholics for the same reason that Huckabee did. Namely, these Americans are put off by Protestant presidential candidates who go too heavy on the Faith and Values stuff.

Admittedly, my hypothesis runs into difficulties when we recall that Catholics gave the majority of their votes to George W. Bush in 2004. Then again, strange as it may sound, Bush’s rhetoric was rarely as relentlessly Christ-y as that of Huck and Obama.