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Gary Wills and David Frum on prayer in the Bush-house

Gary Wills and David Frum on prayer in the Bush-house

WDAD? (What Did AMERICA Do?) | Originally uploaded by silki.

In a piece in this week’s New York Times Magazine headed, “With God On Our Side,” the fearless historian Gary Wills illustrates just how deeply religion has permeated the White House, for better of for worse.

Founding father James Madison and Enlightenment-devotee would be taken aback by the degree to which religion gets ”cognized” and empiricized in, say, Karl Rove’s Rolodex.

The nation’s executive mansion is currently honeycombed with prayer groups and Bible study cells, like a whited monastery. A sly dig there goes, ”Missed you at Bible study,” as David Frum, a Jewish Canadian who worked for Bush as speechwriter, reported in ”The Right Man.” A line from the book: “Bible study was, if not compulsory, not quite uncompulsory, either.”

White House etiquette tip: Friends going to intimate dinners with the Bushes should be prepared to lead grace before dining.

The question, then, is that if our government truly is filled with Christians, why, then, does it so often act with so little mercy and compassion? The White House may be religious. But is it genuinely spiritual?

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Soul’s Code reviews Tony Robbins at the TED conference

TED Conference: Tony Robbins calls Al Gore a “son-of-a-bitch” . . . to his face!

BY PAUL KAIHLA — The 2007 “TED” conference — an eponymous acronym for ‘Technology Entertainment and Design’ — drew celebs-with-substance like Philippe Starck and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the conference center in Monterey, CA this weekend. It’s slugged as a summit of “icons, geniuses and mavericks,” but it’s really a Silicon Valley boondoggle that parades as Davos Lite.

Few geek/policy-wonk conferences deliver YouTube-able entertainment. But this high-powered, high-tech, Meet-Up totally delivered thanks to the presence of Al Gore, the sole member of Google’s advisory board, and Tony Robbins. The one-time TV infommercial schtick-man used the forum to re-brand himself, up-market.

Here’s the news-making line Robbins shot back after Gore humorously heckled him:

He’s broken my pattern, that son of a bitch.

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Fidel Castro: Spiritual but not religious?

Fidel Castro: Spiritual but not religious?

Fidel Castro | Originally uploaded by Melissa in TN.

BY BRIAN CAULFIELD — Yo, ho-ho. Any dude who bans Christmas for 29 years straight is probably just stone-cold crazy. But Cuba’s dictator’s early letters, now published in English, provide a few surprises, including a spiritual side and what appears to be a concern for human rights.

Taking Castro’s early words at face value provides few clues about his authoritarian streak, or the degree to which he’s become a caricature of the Latin strongman. Check out the outdated military uniform, long-winded speeches that would make Clinton wilt with shame, the jailing of dissidents, Castro’s refusal to let anyone run against him in an election, his self-righteousness —  and to boot, a persecution complex (well, okay, that one may have some foundation in reality). But in sum, he displays more telltale signs of clinical narcissism than an L.A. celebutante.

The telltale clue:

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Moscow mayor: gay pride parade ‘Satanic’

Moscow mayor: gay pride parade ‘Satanic’

Yuri Luzhkov is not gay. He’s, like, Russian. Now *that’s* a spiritual credential!

Here’s our stance: we like a parade, any parade. Not so Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, a religious conservative who says he will never sanction a gay pride parade in Moscow.

“Last year, Moscow came under unprecedented pressure to sanction the gay parade, which can be described in no other way than as Satanic,” Luzhkov said at the 15th Christmas educational readings in the Kremlin Palace.

Well, that was quick, comrade: from atheist collectivism to, well, theological fundamentalism in the space of a decade and change. Sometimes, The Times They Aren’t a Changin’.

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Barack Obama: ‘My Spiritual Journey’

Barack Obama’s memoir and manifesto, The Audacity of Hope, has echoes of The Cloud of Unknowing

BY PAUL KAIHLA — That’s the headline for the excerpt from Obama’s new memoir, which is featured on the cover of Time magazine. An accompanying news story by Joe Klein, the journalist who wrote Primary Colors, compares the junior senator from Illinois to an earlier political messiah, Bobby Kennedy.

Obama was raised by a single mother but not an overtly religious one. “She saw mysteries everywhere and took joy in the sheer strangeness of life,” he writes.

Obama is driven by an intense intellectual curiosity – what else would you expect from a Harvard-trained lawyer? And he’s so comfortable with ambiguities and uncertainties that it calls to mind the 14th-century classic of English mysticism, The Cloud of Unknowing.

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