Every year, hundreds of thousands of freshly minted high school graduates enter college across the United States. On the surface, this fall’s ritual of college orientation looked very much like any other’s. Yet there is something different about this group of 18-year-olds.
By book 10 of his Confessions, Augustine has completed the narration of his long, often tortuous spiritual journey from paganism to Christianity. He has not, however, found a resting place. Having gone through a cathartic conversion, Augustine might now be expected to provide his readers with insights into the nature of the Christian faith and the meaning of life.
Almost a decade after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, many Americans have become numb to the reports of continued violence in Iraq that are buried in the back pages of newspapers and are barely mentioned on the nightly news. But acts of sectarian violence in Iraq are still frequent and are increasingly large in scale.
Friedrich Nietzsche observed that the human capacity to forget is not solely the result of inertia: "It is rather an active and in the strictest sense positive faculty of repression." According to Nietzsche, we forget not merely because we have to but because we want to—and we forget selectively, picking and choosing what we remember in order to construct the world in which we choose to l
There clearly has been a marked rise of interest in the Crusades since the start of the present war in Iraq--an interest spurred at least in part by President George W. Bush's talk of an American crusade against terror in the days following the 9/11 attacks. Up to this point, the renaissance in publications about the Crusades largely has been limited to works that fit squarely within traditional historical scholarship. Stark and Housley, on the other hand, provide Crusades volumes for an age in which information is targeted to distinct and splintered interest groups.
A funeral is a curious phenomenon. In the face of the death of a loved one, friends and relatives gather for a carefully choreographed dance of ritualistic acts. Condolences are given. Music is played. Words are spoken. Food is shared.
In U.S. Protestant circles there is a particularly popular story about the origins of religious toleration. In the aftermath of the Reformation, the story goes, there was an Age of Religious Wars typified by unrelenting repression in all matters religious.
Humans are, at heart, creatures of denial. We crave stability and strive to hold on to the familiar. When our established notions are threatened, it is far easier to deny the challenge than to rearrange the way we conceive of the world.
American Christians are changing. By most measures, they are becoming ethnically more diverse, with double-digit increases in the percentage of Christians who are Hispanic or Asian in the U.S. over the past 20 years.
These are difficult times for defenders of liberty. With the ironically named Patriot Act (whose name is an acronym for Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism), law enforcement agencies have gained greatly increased powers to search telephone and e-mail communications without a warrant.
According to Stephen Prothero, America is both “deeply religious and profoundly ignorant about religion.” Personal belief in God remains high. Americans say that their convictions shape their public behaviors, and most support the idea of religious organizations participating in public policy issues. Yet surveys show that the majority of Americans cannot name even one of the four Gospels. Only one-third know that it was Jesus who delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and 10 percent think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.
By some accounts, the 2006 elections signaled a seismic shift in the political landscape for American Christians. Allies of the Christian right such as Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Representative John Hostettler of Indiana were ousted.