In December, the arts-and-faith journal Image published its 20th-anniversary edition, showcasing the work of poets, short-story writers, theologians and essayists as well as visual artists. Under the direction of Gregory Wolfe, Image has become one of the top-ten best-selling literary journals in the U.S.
One Thursday afternoon this past October, along the main road to Los Angeles International Airport, members of the hotel workers union unrolled a banquet scene. Tables were put up in front of the Hilton LAX, one of the airport hotels most hostile to unions, and workers from unionized hotels, dressed in tuxedos, set the tables with tablecloths and plastic champagne goblets.
Toni Morrison’s novel A Mercy begins with a Sophie’s Choice moment for a slave woman living in Barbados in the late 17th century. Her master owes a debt to a trader, and he offers the woman’s infant son as collateral. She pushes her preadolescent daughter toward the trader and begs him to take the girl instead.
After more than 30 years of operation, Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) can boast of building more than 200,000 houses for poor people around the world, of bringing thousands of Christians to work sites, and of helping countless people understand how faith and social action go together. Founded by Millard and Linda Fuller in Georgia in 1976, Habitat has affiliates throughout the U.S.
Mary Doria Russell’s novels include intricately drawn characters who explore life’s deepest and most troubling questions. She is perhaps best known for her first novel, The Sparrow (1996), and its sequel, Children of God (1998), about human contact with aliens on a space mission organized by Jesuits.
Residents of the Pacific Northwest are redefining what it means to be religious. The region is sometimes called the None Zone because 63 percent of those polled for the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey said that they were not affiliated with a religious group, compared to 41 percent of all Americans, and 25 percent claimed to have no religious identity—compared to 14 percent nationally. By checking “none” on a survey, however, Northwesterners are not necessarily signaling a lack of interest in religion. They are indicating, says Patricia Killen, a historian and dean of Pacific Lutheran University, that they do not think “religious identity is connected to a historic religious institution or faith.”
When I was a student at St. Olaf College in the 1990s, sex was not the center of my educational experience. Of course, it had its place. But I was busy with a lot of other things too. I was concerned about my future.
Described by the Los Angeles Times as the “preeminent student of the relationship between religion and American politics,”John Green has conducted surveys on religion for every presidential election since 1992.
As I pulled into the parking lot of John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, I noticed that the person parking next to me was dressed in a purple African-print tunic. The crowd that streamed into the church seemed as racially and ethnically diverse as San Antonio, with a mix of blacks, whites and Latinos. The presence of Africans from newer immigrant communities was especially noticeable.
A veteran of Democratic Party politics and a former aide to representatives Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and James Clyburn (D., S.C.), Burns Strider was senior adviser and director of faith-based outreach for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
I’m in a high school classroom talking to “Lisa.” Her hair is dyed black and purple, and the piercing in her lower lip bounces as she talks. “I broke up with my boyfriend because of this class,” she says. The class is Introduction to Psychology, and the teacher is Char Kamper, who developed a curriculum called Connections to teach students about dating, relationships and marriage. “When did you break up with him?” I ask. “Three days ago,” Lisa says, and then she looks me straight in the eye. “I realized he only called me when he wanted one thing.”
During the 1990-1991 Gulf War, George Dardess, an English teacher in Rochester, New York, watched on television as the U.S. dropped “smart bombs” on Baghdad. He felt anger and self-reproach. He turned to his wife and said, “I am complicit in this war through my ignorance. I don’t even know if I could find Iraq on a map.
Tables were set for the third annual interfaith Passover Seder meal, a "bring your own wine" event at University Congregational Church in Seattle. There were place settings for 300, fresh flowers, two kinds of charoset (a blend of fruit and nuts), two kinds of horseradish and baskets of matzo. The participants at this event came not only from University Congregational, led by pastor Don McKenzie, but also from Bet Alef, a “meditative synagogue” led by Rabbi Ted Falcon, and from an experimental congregation known as the Interfaith Community Church, led by Sufi Muslim teacher Jamal Rahman.
Do you see your writing and ministry as connected?For me, my writing and my ministry are joined, and I think they are joined for many of my readers, who are looking for some kind of spiritual nourishment as well as entertainment. Usually they've had some kind of religion in the past, at least enough background to know what is going on. They get the fact that Atticus is the story of the prodigal son.To entertain and to educate are the dual functions of any writer. I want people to notice God’s actions in their lives and in the lives of others and to have sympathy for other people. I want them to see that there is something going on here that matters. You can’t do that by hitting people over the head; you have to slowly draw them into it.In a sense, I am trying to proselytize by means of entertaining fiction. Fiction is ideally suited for this because it involves people in other worlds. It lets them see that world through a character’s eyes. Then they find themselves making judgments about whether a character is acting properly or improperly.Fiction, by its nature, asks ethical questions. As you are reading, you are constantly asking whether a character has done what you would have done or if the character has gone awry in some way. When you are reading, whether you are aware of it or not, you are offering advice to the character, and thus offering advice to yourself.
In June, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, a professor in the justice and peace studies program at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis, ended his bid for the U.S. Senate after Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party picked Al Franken as its nominee.
China’s crackdown on protesters in Tibet has brought attention to China’s record on human rights—unwelcome attention for the country that hopes this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing will bolster its image in the world. Protests have accompanied the travels of the Olympic torch as it makes its way to Beijing.
The presumptive Republican nominee for president, Arizona senator John McCain, has for 15 years attended North Phoenix Baptist Church, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. The pastor of the church for that same period has been Dan Yeary.
At first glance, Sudhir Venkatesh’s Gang Leader for a Day looks something like a spin-off television show. Venkatesh was featured in Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt’s bestselling Freakonomics as the sociologist who befriended gang leaders and got revealing economic information from them.
A breakfast frequently served at my son’s school—where over half the children receive government-supported meals—consists of commercially produced French toast sticks and syrup. The list of ingredients on the package for this meal is as long as this paragraph. It includes not only partially hydrogenated soybean oil and high fructose corn syrup, but also more mystifying additives like gelatinized wheat starch, calcium caseinate, lecithin, guar gum and cellulose gum. The story of how these items arrive at a school cafeteria and are designated as food is a long and complicated one involving the interaction of farmers, government policy makers and the food industry. The modern story of why we eat what we eat begins in the 1930s, when President Franklin Roosevelt faced the challenges of the Depression. He saw that many farmers were poor and that one in every five people in the country was undernourished. Farmers and other Americans were too vulnerable, he believed, to the cycles of boom and bust.
Rachel Laser is senior policy adviser at Third Way, a “nonpartisan strategy center for progressives” based in Washington, D.C., that seeks to locate middle ground between progressives and conservatives on issues of security, economics and culture.