I've interviewed former-Angels/now-Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter before. He seemed like a nice guy. Very forthcoming, lovable and full of joy during the 10 minutes or so I spent with him on the phone. In this era of players who spend their league-mandated public relations time repeating the same tired clichés about giving the scientifically impossible 110 percent, Hunter's one of the rare ball-playing millionaires who actually seem in the moment when you talk to them.
But at the same time, he's also one of those stereotypical athletes who make sure to thank God with the first words of any victory speech, well before giving praise to the family that stuck by him, the coaches that instructed him and the teammates who fought alongside him. So, it's not entirely surprising to learn that Hunter feels “uncomfortable” sharing a locker room with a hypothetical out-of-the-closet gay player. You see, because of his “teaching” and “learning”, biblically-speaking of course, homosexuals go against what the man upstairs wants.
Hunter's obviously not alone. Professional sports are filled with believers. The forces behind why that is, exactly, are a mix of external (the fact that most come from podunk towns or inner city environments where religion is around from birth) and internal (how else do you explain getting paid vast sums of money to make sure a ball goes towards a particular direction) forces. But the religiosity of sports is ignored when we question why a gay athlete playing one of the major American sports has yet to come out of the closet. Instead, we cast the blame on dangerous locker room environments due to an overabundance of machismo and testosterone, suggesting that the meathead jocks will torture the newly-out just as they did the nerds back in high school. When really, to find out why, we should be turning our attention to the clubhouse preachers leading teams in pre-game prayers.
Onto the roundup!
- In Islington, the UK's first atheist church held their opening ceremony, something they'll be doing on the first Sunday of every month. And yes, this enterprise is being put together by a pair of stand-up comedians.
- In Iraq, a suicide car bomber killed 27 Shi'ite pilgrims who were waiting at a bus station to head home for a religious ceremony.
- Get your favourite letter-of-protest-writing pen and parchment ready: Showtime is developing The Vatican, a drama about spirituality, power and politics in the modern-day Catholic Church.
- In Yemen, al-Qaeda announced a $160,000 bounty (to be paid in three kilograms of gold – of course they're still using the gold standard) for killing US ambassador Gerald Feierstein. They're also willing to pony up $23,000 for anyone who kills a US soldier inside Yemen's borders.
- Despite threats to veto the National Defense Authorisation Act of 2013 because it still allows American citizens to be indefinitely detained at Guantanamo Bay, President Obama just kind of gave up and signed it into law.
- The psychiatric evaluation for the woman in New York accused of killing a man by shoving him in front of a subway train revealed she did so because she believed “he was Muslim”. Yes, she's crazy as hell, as evidenced by her laughing so hard during her arraignment that the judge told her lawyer to get her under control. But still.
- Head on down to the third paragraph of this great article about how book reviewers occasionally get odd responses if they happen to be reading something pretty controversial in public, to the one where the authors talk about the time they had to review Brian Leiter's Why Tolerate Religion?
- Fighting in Belfast between loyalist and Catholic nationalists, over the removal of a British union flag from City Hall, resulted in a man being arrested after taking pot shots at police officers.
- Joseph Sciambra, former gay porn star, wants everyone to know that Satan loves anal sex, because it “would release into the world these rare demonic entities”. Or something like that.
- The pastor of St. Aloysius church in Springfield, Illinois had to call 911 after getting himself caught in quite the precarious situation: He locked himself in handcuffs he was “playing with.” Also, his voice was muffled on the 911 tapes because it was filled with a ball gag.
- Were you not one of the lucky many to check out former SNL actress Victoria Jackson's hilariously insane Twitter rants during election night? Then catch up a bit by checking out her hilariously insane racist-infused rant about Current TV's purchase by Al Jazeera. Speaking of, Gawker put together a nice cross-section of racist tweets in response to the news.
- The military in Nigeria killed 13 members of Islamist militants Boko Harem during a clash. One military member was also killed in the struggle.
- In northwest Pakistan, a vehicle carrying charity workers delivering vaccinations came under gunfire, resulting in the deaths of six females and one male. While the Taliban denied responsibility, odds are looking it was them seeing as they've pulled this kind of thing before. Meanwhile, two US drone attacks took out Mullah Nazir, a senior Taliban leader and eight other militants.
And Our Person(s) of the Week: The Church of England, who made quite the decision this week by allowing clergymen who are gay and in civil partnerships to become bishops. Granted, they have to remain sexually abstinent – sorry civil partners of these new gay bishops – but still, the option is there now.
And, while it's a bit late in the game for a year-in-review award, seeing as it's topical this week and all, Our Person of the Year is Malala Yousafzai – the 15-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head earlier this year by Taliban militants in response to her continued efforts promoting girls' education in the region. She was discharged from an English hospital after three months of care. Let her be not only an example for women in religiously-charged regions, but for all of us no matter where we call home.
Previously - Subtle Forces
Meeting Hardcore Drug Users at a Four-Star Hotel in Lithuania
I learned all sorts at the International Harm Reduction Conference.
Wild Things: The Wolfman
Eighty-year-old Werner Freund would rather be a wolf than a man.
I Smoked Hash and Watched Cute Animal Videos with Syrian Rebels
It turns out they're really into reggae and kittens.
Fringes: Stories from the Edge: Cult Kids: Westboro
The children of Westboro are brainwashed into picketing funerals and bashing homosexuals.
Fringes: Stories from the Edge: Cowboy Capitalists
For maverick entrepreneur Ian Cox, Africa is the last frontier of free enterprise.