- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2008

Whose beliefs

“Now the relative importance of a belief in supernatural agents, and the extent which it intrudes on day-to-day affairs, depends, as you might expect, on the specifics of the belief system in question and the particular emphases it places.

“For instance, Evangelicals and (especially) Pentecostals tend to invoke demonic agency much more frequently than Roman Catholics, at least in my experience …

“Thus while Hollywood’s exorcists invariably come clothed in priestly habits, actual exorcism-prayer of various sorts - the kind of ‘spiritual warfare’ that freaks Christopher Hitchens out so much - is a far more important part of religious practice among American Pentecostals than among American Papists, for whom the demonic is something you invoke to explain and understand extraordinary experiences, not more mundane body-and-soul crises like, say, alcoholism or drug addiction. (Though of course Catholics frequently invoke saintly agency, which is its own category of supernatural belief, in ways that members of other Christian traditions don’t.)”


— Ross Douthat, writing on “Gods and Monsters” on Dec. 11 at his eponymous Atlantic blog

Poor formation

“Sports parents see the connection between practices and ‘the game’; they understand that to play better during games, their athlete needs to attend practices in order to reinforce things already learned, as well as to learn new things. Sports parents understand that if their child does not attend the practices, chances are they will not play in the game. Parents will even send their children to special sports camps in order to get them advanced coaching and skills, so that their child can do something on the field that the other players cannot.

“A significant amount of (but certainly not all) Catholic parents don’t see the connection between their child(ren)’s religious education classes and Sunday Mass. Some think it is sufficient to send their child(ren) to the classes, but not attend Mass regularly.

“Religious education is a service they pay for and expect to be done for them but not by them. Like hiring someone to teach their kids to play the piano, some parents think that religious education programs are there to teach their children to have faith.”

— the Rev. Jay Toborowsky, writing on “Parish Suggestion Follow Up,” on Dec. 3 at the Blogspot site, Young Fogeys

Bigger atrocity

“Horrific stories of ruthless killings on the streets of Jos in northern Nigeria are emerging. At least one church pastor was shot dead, along with three members of his household and an Augustinian monastery attacked, the abbot narrowly escaping death after a Molotov cocktail was thrown into his room. …

“On Thursday, I spoke to the Bishop of Jos, Dr. Benjamin Kwashi. According to his eyewitness report, the violence was directed solely against Christians, with some Muslims shot by armed forces only when they broke curfew. Estimates vary, but it seems about 400 people might have been killed. While not lessening the horror of that atrocity, this is about twice the number killed in Mumbai.”

Ruth Gledhill, writing on “Death in the Streets as Christians Flee” on Dec. 5 at her London Times blog, Articles of Faith