About 15 years
ago I was a guest at the annual meeting of theAssociation of Christians Teaching Sociology. In one session a professor reported on a
student's project. Taking the Century as a barometer of mainline Protestantism and Christianity Today as a barometer of evangelicalism, his student
compared the respective responses to the civil rights movement. The student
found that the Century was very hospitable toward the movement and that CT was critical of
it. (Full disclosure: At the time of this ACTS meeting, I was working for
Since ACTS is comprised
largely of evangelical scholars, there was some hanging of heads in the room.
Evangelicals, they agreed, had been on the wrong side of history, not to speak
of the wrong side of justice.
If my pastor got up some Sunday and said,
"I am not a pastor. I'm just a regular person," I'd respond like this: "Well, we
hired you to be a pastor, and if you have a problem with it you should find
another line of work."
Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World, by Robin Wright. The West's myopic preoccupation with the war on terror has kept it from seeing the ferment in the Middle East, says Wright.
As soon as I heard that Steve Jobs had died I went on Facebook and posted, “RIP, Steve Jobs.” There were many responses, some that surprised me. A few people talked in glowing terms about how Jobs had transformed their lives, as though he were a spiritual guru.
Right now I'm
reading In the Garden of Beasts, by
master storyteller Erik Larson. It is the captivating story of William E. Dodd,
U.S. ambassador to Germany during Hitler's rise to power. Dodd's young adult
daughter Martha, a socialite who had affairs with the head of the Gestapo and a
Russian spy, steals the show. Next I plan to read Stephen Ozment's sweeping
survey A Mighty Fortress: A New History
of the German People.
If you're like me, you have a list of books in your head or on scraps of paper that you think you should read sometime. Somewhere, sometime, a teacher or a writer urged these books on me, but I haven't gotten around to reading them.
In 1831-32 two
young Frenchmen, Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont, traveled
through the United States, ostensibly to study the prison system on behalf of
the French government. But the prisons bored and often appalled them--Quaker-inspired
prisons in Philadelphia being the exception--so they spent very little time in
Every few years a fringe Christian leader
or group predicts when Jesus Christ is coming back to earth. The latest date,
announced on billboards in some mid-sized American cities, is May 21 of this
I appreciate when other people recommend
favorite CDs. In that spirit, I share with you some of my favorite Christmas
CDs. (A warning: I tend to favor the less familiar over tried and true
Christmas carols. I also prefer vocal music to instrumental and a cappella to
When radio stations started playing Henryk Górecki's Symphony no. 3, known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, it was reported that drivers would pull off the road because the haunting, mournful music left them in tears. A 14-year-old Swedish burn victim wrote to Górecki to say that the Third Symphony was what kept her alive.
When I sit in church on Sunday mornings, I sometimes look
around at the other congregants and ask myself, "Why are these people here? Why
did they choose to come to church?" Some people prefer staying at home to
leisurely read the Sunday paper, or go out for a relaxed Sunday brunch. Why
have these people given up their precious spare time to be here?
I used to think my grandfather had a strange affliction. He not only
read the obituaries, but he kept a log of the deaths of relatives,
friends and people he knew. If there were ever any questions about who
died when, he’d retrieve his notebook and give us the facts.
Lee Kravitz loved his job as editor in chief of Parade magazine.
But like his ancestors before him, he was a workaholic. Most of the men
in his family worked until they died, usually from heart attacks in
their early 60s.
The challenge of telling other people’s stories is an occupational hazard for journalists, historians, memoirists, conflict mediators and even preachers. Getting the facts accurate is only part of the challenge. Storytellers have to grapple with the most effective way to tell the story and what perspective to take or interpretive remarks to include.