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\"Pretend Kidnapping\" by Evangelicals

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One of the problems journalists face in reporting on religion is that they lack the experience of the group being examined. Consequently, certain turns of phrase or practices that are very important to a given religion are opaque to the rest of us and we misunderstand their significance.

So, this article at the New Republic by Amy Sullivan is especially helpful in explaining who the practice among some evangelical youth groups of "pretend kidnapping" the youngsters to see if they will deny Christ leads to the birth of other, persistent myths, like the one surrounding one of the victims of the Columbine shooting, the myth that one of the shooters asked if she was a Christian, she said "yes," and he shot her. That probably did not happen, but it fit an existing narrative amogn evangelical youth that Sullivan knows from her own experience.

Of course, Catholics should not snicker too easily at this "pretend kidnapping." Anyone familiar with the case of Edgardo Mortara knows that the Catholic Church has not always been a paragon of virtue when it comes to kidnapping children.

HHS Mandate (Mostly) Takes Effect

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Today, the HHS mandate that insurance policies cover various preventive services for women without cost to the insured takes effect. Religious institutions that did not previously cover controversial items like sterilization and contraception have one more year before compliance is mandatory, during which time it is expected more negotiations will take place and, in any event, the lawsuits challenging the mandate will be heard. In this sense, the one-year “grace period” actually is helpful.

When Humor Isn't Funny

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It takes a lot, and I mean A LOT, to offend me. I believe with all my heart that comedians should be given wide latitude in skewering their targets. But, last night's episode of "The Daily Show" contained a segment that was so filled with offensive nonsense - against the Pope, against Italians, against the importance of defending the right to life of the unborn - that while I will not go so far as to say it "crossed the line," I will go so far as to say this. I deeply regret that a person I deeply respect, Sr. Simone Campbell, was a party to the charade and I hope she did not know the purposes to which her involvement would be put. It is one thing to disagree on a serious issue like abortion rights. It is another to mock those who care about the unborn.

Douthat \"Half-Right\" Watch

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Ross Douthat has done it again - put forward an important argument with bad evidence to support it. His worry is that there are some who wish to reduce freedom of religion to freedom of worship. Fair enough. As I have said before, one of the reasons the HHS mandate was seen as a Catholic issue is not just because of our position on contraception but because the Catholic Church, which did not deman the importance of works during the Reformation, employees so many people in its many and varied ministries.

But, after noting that the founders used the phrase "freedom of religion" not "freedom of belief" or "freedom of worship," he then concludes: "It’s a significant choice of words, because it suggests a recognition that religious faith cannot be reduced to a purely private or individual affair." Actually, I have not once encountered a shred of evidence that the choice of words was significant to the founders. And, most of the evidence does suggest that the founders wanted religion to be understood as a purely private matter.

Garnett Responds

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Rick Garnett has posted a reply to my piece this morning. I think we are largely in agreement on many issues and, most importantly, on the kinds of moral framework a Catholic can and must bring to the examination of political issues. I do think Garnett is too kind to modern economics, but will leave that discussion to another day. And, I do invite him to address the questions I posed about the pervasiveness of economic ideas in our culture and why they can be as troubling as life issues, even though their content is not as immediately repulsive. This, to me, is a very important problem with U.S. culture, the whole homo economicus worldview, that enables the culture to view children and workers alike as commodities rather than people.

Romney's Blunders

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We are going to need a special filing system to keep track of all the blunders Mitt Romney has made on his first trip abroad, a trip that is designed to help American voters see him as a statesman but which, instead, has made Romney look like a guy who can't open his mouth without sticking his foot into it.

First, he dissed London's organizing efforts for the Olympics, then revealed a meeting with British intelligence that was supposed to be secret, ending his time in the UK with a reference to 10 Downing Street's "backside."

Camosy v. Garnett

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My smackdown of George Weigel has given birth to a very interesting and important exchange between two professors I greatly admire, Notre Dame’s Rick Garnett and Fordham’s Charles Camosy. At issue is the relationship between agreed-upon Catholic doctrine and the exercise of prudential judgment by politicians. This is a critical discussion and I hope that all three of us can help perfect the arguments of each of us.

Camosy wrote:

Romney & the Olympics

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While most of the commentariat was focused on Romney's unforced error, denigrating the UK's preparations for the Olympics and Cameron's biting rejoinder, I had a different question. Mr. and Mrs. Romney attended the Opening Ceremonies which featured, among other things, a rendition of Blake's "Jerusalem" set to the magical music of Hubert Parry. Romney has frequently given his examples of his commitment to a religiously inflected American exceptionalism. What does he think of this bit of religiously inflected British exceptionalism? After all, Blake's retelling of a fable - "And was the holy Lamb of God/ On England's pleasant pastures seen!" - trumps even Sarah Palin's exalted ideas about America's special divine dispensations, no?

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