When A History of God hit the New York Times bestseller list, Karen Armstrong suddenly became the go-to commentator on religion. Bill Moyers calls her “one of the foremost, and most original, thinkers on religion in our modern world.” Why is she so widely read? The answer is not immediately clear. Her prose is often maddeningly dense and her points elusive. Her drive to comprehend religion leads her to be constantly comparing elements of different religious traditions, but the connections she draws are not always illuminating.
When Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona in late April signed a bill authorizing local police to apprehend people suspected of having entered the country illegally, she brought to national attention the tensions and frustrations that many Arizonans feel when it comes to immigration. These tensions are evident in congregations, which contain a wide range of opinions on immigration policy.
Although nearly everyone agrees that U.S. immigration policy is inadequate, different critics focus on different elements of the problem. The most comprehensive proposal comes from Representative Luis Gutierrez (D., Ill.), a native Chicagoan of Puerto Rican ancestry who has criticized President Obama’s reluctance to address the issue. Gutierrez’s bill is heartily endorsed by most immigrants’ rights groups, but it is not likely to pass in its current form. Jen Smyers of Church World Service calls it “a marker bill,” since it stakes out a clear position. It has no Republican supporters.
Matthew Hoh is a former Marine Corps captain who has served with the U.S. Department of State in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last fall he resigned his post in Afghanistan, declaring in his resignation letter: “I find specious the reasons we ask for bloodshed and sacrifice from our young men and women in Afghanistan.
Mark A. Potok heads up the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project and is editor of Intelligence Report magazine. The SPLC, founded as a law firm specializing in protecting civil rights, is one of the chief monitors of race-based hate groups and other extremist activities.
After serving as a chaplain in World War II, Gordon Cosby wanted to create a church that helped people truly become disciples of Christ. Since the 1940s, the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C., has called people to spiritual discipline and to social mission.
Seminaries generally do a fine job of educating the minds of people who are called into ministry. But how well do they form the hearts and spirits of those people? Do seminaries build leaders who are servants of Christ?
Rick Steves on the spirituality of traveling: People have a lot of fear, and the flip side of fear is understanding. When you travel to new places you understand more, so you fear less. Then you can love people as a Christian should. The less you travel, the more likely that media with a particular agenda can shape your viewpoint. Those of us who travel are a little more resilient in weathering the propaganda storms that blow across the U.S. media.
For the last ten years, I have worked in the same small soup kitchen at a local church. For nearly all this time, those of us who work there have wondered how to become more integrated with our town’s immigrant communities. Within the last year, that integration has suddenly occurred, almost without warning.
Mary Karr’s memoir follows two earlier biographical efforts, The Liar’s Club, the story of her upbringing as the daughter of alcoholics, and Cherry, about her unmoored adolescence and nascent poetic longings. Lit begins with Karr on her back porch with a tumbler of whiskey, a cigarette and headphones.
Just over a year old, J Street is a lobbying organization in Washington that describes itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace.” It aims to offer an alternative perspective to that of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which for decades has been the dominant voice of American Jews on Mideast issues.
Gwen opens the circle session at nine a.m. on a Monday morning with a reading from Alcoholics Anonymous’ Blue Book. The theme is powerlessness, and Gwen reads in a halting voice. Her audience is a group of women who’ve come to work here in an old parsonage just up the hill from a well-heeled Episcopal church.
London is the world’s most diverse city, with more than 30 percent of its residents hailing from outside England. This diversity is abundantly evident on market day in East London, as thousands of people crush into Petticoat Lane, and the trendier Up Market at the far end of Brick Lane, speaking dozens of languages. Women in short skirts brush shoulders with women in full-length burqas.
Rupert Shortt is religion editor of the Times Literary Sup plement in London (he also covers the fields of Latin America and Spain for the TLS) and author of two recent biographies: Benedict XVI: Commander of the Faith (2006) and Rowan’s Rule (2008), a profile of Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury.
When pastors Constanzo and Marisela Aguirre decided to copastor a congregation in Aurora, Illinois, they had to give up health insurance because the small congregation could not afford it. Soon the Aguirres and other Mennonite pastors may have a solution. An insurance plan created by the Mennonite Church USA would give every pastor essentially the same coverage—with larger and wealthier congregations subsidizing smaller congregations.
Paula Huston is a straightforward and gentle teacher of the spiritual life. In Forgiveness: Following Jesus into Radical Loving, she combines practical counsel, easy-to-read prose and absorbing storytelling to offer a challenging account of forgiveness rooted in the Christian gospel.