On page A19 of today's New York Times there are two revealing stories. The first deals with the Food and Drug Administration, that reaffirmed its policy of of banning gay blood donors, more than a year after the Red Cross and two other blood groups slammed the ban as "medically and scientifically unwarranted."
On the bottom of the page is the announcement that Mary Cheney had a baby boy. Sadly, thanks to the politics of the child's grandfather - with the support of his mother - he was born into a world where his parents have no legal rights (they live in Virginia) and the FDA would discriminate against him if he grew up to be gay (I hear it runs in families).
The Pope is sorry for "unjustifiable crimes" that were committed in the conquest of South America 500 years ago. (Better late than never) The pope told an audience in Rome that it was "not possible to forget the suffering and the injustices inflicted by colonizers against the indigenous population, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled."
South Americans were mad when the Pope recently visited Brazil and swept genocide caused by disease, forced conversion and outright murder under the carpet. In the offending speech, the Pope said: "The proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture." (I guess wiping these people and cultures off the face of this earth was not offending)
It seems whenever the Pope hits the road, he brings more controversy than a Janet Jackson breast. He seems to say the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe, he should just quietly go back to being Rome's rules enforcer, instead of giving speeches that piss off entire cultures, continents or religions.
To his credit, I guess, he did kind of apologized. However, this raises a question: How can an institution that inflicted "suffering and injustices" on others in the name of religion, be trusted to be the moral voice on homosexuality?
Like the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, the Vatican has been on the wrong side of history on many burning social issues. They have had to offer mea culpas to Jews, women, black people and now South Americans.
In their typically timely fashion, in about 500 years, a future Pope will also offer gay people an apology. Too bad I won't be around to hear it.
(Aloha: Rick Warren, left, is the 'Kind' New Falwell)
In sports, it is known that confidence is the main ingredient that separates great players from those who are merely good. A legend, such as Michael Jordan, could miss ten shots in a row, but he would still expect the eleventh shot to fall. The average player, on the other hand, would start having doubts after a few missed baskets, even if he has the same physical talents as the star.
After tossing a generous number of political bricks, the religious right is in the midst of a crisis in confidence that will determine whether it will be remembered as a great movement or merely an ugly historical footnote. The death of Rev. Jerry Falwell, combined with the upcoming presidential election and the implosion of Bush's legacy has left the right rudderless.
Much of the malaise comes from the embarrassing fact that evangelicals lined up behind Bush for years and spoke of him as if he were a prophet. Now that Bush has transformed from Baby Jesus to idiot child - social conservatives are deservedly getting most of the blame for the Bush debacle.
Things are so bad for Bush that Jimmy Carter - a man who knows a little something about failed presidencies - has said Bush is the "worst" in history. Finally, Carter got something right, but Evangelicals were also reminded by his outburst that they backed Carter's presidency because he was outspokenly Born Again.
Looking at the Bush/Carter messes they have made, some fundamentalists are disillusioned with politics. They also see that shifting public opinion has nixed aims at absolute dominion and their political domination is dangerously sliding into alienation. The once fearless now seems rather feckless and the Jesus Juggernaut is looking like the Little Engine that cannot.
The passing of Rev. Jerry Falwell must have been quite jarring. Instead of being lionized as a conqueror - he was largely ridiculed as a cartoon - with his controversies outweighing his accomplishments. Only the groveling Republican presidential candidates seemed to have anything nice to say, and we all know most of them didn't mean it.
As the right eulogized Falwell, geriatric televangelist D. James Kennedy was recovering from a heart attack. But his political sword, The Center for Reclaiming America for Christ, could not recover from failure and recently closed its doors. The ultimate collapse of Kennedy's sinister Center and Falwell's Moral Majority - as well as Pat Robertson's ailing Christian Coalition - suggests these groups may be little more than wildly successful cults of personality. Too, one wonders the fate of James Dobson's Focus on the Family, when the Lord finally calls him home?
While the religious right is down, they certainly are not out. Falwell, for example, built Liberty University and the Liberty Counsel, his legal arm, to train activists to carry on his shameful legacy. Surprisingly, Liberty has one of the top ranked debate teams in the nation, where students learn apologetics so they can effectively argue, rather than apologize, when they offend others.
The media is busy anointing new religious leaders to supposedly take the place of the outgoing Falwell-Robertson-Dobson-Kennedy Axis of Ignorance. They seem to think Rick Warren, the author of the bestseller, "The Purpose Driven Life" is the logical successor.
Warren, who gives sermons in tacky Hawaiian shirts, is portrayed as dripping with compassion because he and his wife minister to AIDS victims. While they deserve credit for helping the sick, they are far from moderate on social issues. In fact, Warren supports the "ex-gay" message, which heaps shame on gay men - leading to more HIV cases. I guess, after he breaks down their self-esteem, leading to reckless sexual behavior, he'll take care of them.
It is a measure of how far to the right Falwell and others of his ilk have moved society that troglodytes like Warren are considered "moderate." This is hardly a record to be proud of, and in their hearts, many social conservatives know their movement has harmed this nation.
The truth is, the religious right's power will only be waning if they keep whining and complaining. The GOP will put on a full court press to get social conservatives to the polls, but if they are thinking "air ball" - a Republican victory in the next election will be anything but a slam-dunk.