Steven Sotloff’s mother pleaded for mercy for her son, who had been threatened with brutal execution by his Islamic State captors. Mercy seems to be an alien concept to their brand of religion, and they beheaded the 31-year-old American journalist. Also consider this:
The Islamic State is an equal opportunity killer
James Foley, who the IS executed two weeks ago, was Catholic and was hailed by many as a modern-day martyr. Sotloff was Jewish and, it turns out, also had Israeli citizenship — something the Israelis had kept quiet for fear it would hurt any chance he had of being released. That didn’t help in the end, but it’s not clear his Islamist captors were smart enough to figure out Sotloff was Jewish:
The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, quoting a former fellow captive, said Sotloff had kept his Judaism a secret from the Islamist insurgents, pretending he was sick when he fasted for the Yom Kippur holiday.
Which may answer this question:
Apologies in advance for this horrid thought, but I'm surprised that ISIS didn't behead the guy with the Jewish name first.
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) September 2, 2014
Don’t forget that the IS targets Muslims as well:
— Razan Saffour (@RazanSpeaks) September 2, 2014
So is this a war of religion? A war against religion? Both or neither? Or something else?
Two other items of note, from RNS:
- After kidnapping schoolgirls, Boko Haram takes aim at churches in northeast Nigeria
- Methodists in England ‘like an iceberg … crumbling into the sea’
“Erin go gay”
This news just broke, and it’s big:
“Gay group to march in NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade for first time”
The American public, and Catholics as much as anyone, have been increasingly accepting of gays and lesbians and gay rights, and proud Irish gays and lesbians have long been marching in St. Patrick’s Day parades in Ireland. But the American grandaddy of St. Patrick’s Day parades, which runs down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and pauses at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, has never allowed gay and lesbian marchers to take part as a group. That had led many NY pols to pass on marching. Now the parade organizers have apparently changed their minds. What will Cardinal Dolan do? What will the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue do? Wait, I think I know the answer to that second one …
On the other hand …
A chemistry teacher at a Catholic all-girls high school in a Detroit suburb has been fired, apparently because she got pregnant — and she’s a lesbian, which made it a “non-traditional” pregnancy. This won’t end well. “That you can’t hide a pregnancy from the public is why I was terminated,” Barbara Webb told the Free Press.
Then again, a Native American child was reportedly sent home from the first day of kindergarten because he had long hair, which is part of his Navajo religious tradition but against the dress code rules of the school. Paging the Becket Fund!
The Crux of the matter
The Boston Globe’s new Catholic-themed site, Crux, is up and is a must-read — not just because they carry RNS copy, though, yeah, props to them.
But they also have Vaticanista non pareil John Allen, whose opening column goes against the grain and poses four tough questions that someone needs to ask Francis, the “Teflon Pope.” They are about how he is dealing, or not, with the role of women, the sex abuse crisis, international conflicts and his own management style.
Maybe he needs to add a fifth question, about the status of gays. But who am I to judge John’s news sense?
Seriously, Crux has a of of other great stuff, but check out this photo gallery of the Vatican “Secret” Archives, and yeah, the scare quotes are more ironic than scary.
Speaking of irony and the Vatican, Cardinal Mueller again took the American nuns to task for not being sufficiently attentive to his effort to recast their mission and identity, but he was careful to assure readers that “we don’t want to gobble up a woman a day!” Good to know.
The last Catholic graph you’ll ever need
Our own poli sci and religion whiz, Tobin Grant, breaks down the various Catholic camps in the latest iteration of his awesome graphic.
PS: Tobin, you may need to add one for gay Catholics who march in St. Patrick’s Day parades.
Defending Victoria Osteen … and the Prosperity Gospel
Matt Lewis gives it a good shot, as Matt can do, as the backlash against the backlash against Joel Osteen’s wife begins. Victoria Osteen had been hammered on social media for saying that you come to church not to worship God but to make yourself happy. But hold on, sayeth Matt:
It’s not as if the people criticizing the Osteens are living a life of asceticism. Many probably live in nice houses and drive nice cars. And money is not the root of all evil. The operative word is “love” — as in the love of money is the root of all evil. So yeah, if you love God to get money, that’s a real problem. But if you love God no matter what, but also believe that loving God might somehow naturally lead you to attain a more prosperous life — what’s wrong with that?
Albert Mohler is having none of it:
The Osteens are phenomenally successful because they are the exaggerated fulfillment of the self-help movement and the cult of celebrity rolled into one massive mega-church media empire.
Bonus: Here’s a July column by a lapsed English Catholic (of all things!) who attended the Osteens’ huge Houston stadium church and came away rather impressed.
But what would Oliver Cromwell say?
On this date in 1658, the notorious Puritan ruler — or great man of history and defender of liberty, depending on your views — died of natural causes. Which is not how many of his opponents died. Cromwell was about as brutal then as the Islamic State is today, especially if you were Catholic, and Irish. But that was then. Also worth noting: when the Royalists returned to power in 1660 they had his corpse dug up, hung in chains, and beheaded.
Richard Dawkins, also English, is pleased as punch
The renowned neo-Atheist’s book, “The God Delusion,” has sold more than 3 million copies. “Please forgive me,” he tweeted, “unable to disguise my pleasure.” Prompting this:
“@JossBlandHawtho: With 300 million bibles sold, you have a long way to go.” Yes it's hard to compete with a work of fiction.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) September 3, 2014
Would Dawkins at least give props to these guys?
“Young Mormon Missionaries Rescue Baby Ducklings From New Zealand Storm Drain”
That is your uplifting news of the day. Not enough, I know. But we push ahead.
Stay tuned to this space for updates throughout the day.