Pastor Maria Edmonds is doing gang ministry in the mountains of North Carolina. As she puts it, "They’re not accepted anywhere else. So I figure Jesus would have me spend time with them.”Millions of dollars are spent each year at the federal level to combat gang activity and reduce gang-related violence in our big cities. And, as Edmonds has discovered, gangs are also a feature of life in many small towns.
The Sunday after Pope Benedict XVI authorized the wider use of Latin in the Catholic mass, I went to St. John Cantius Church in Chicago, which has been celebrating mass in Latin for years. In fact, Catholic priests could always use the Latin version of the 1970 Vatican II–inspired liturgy (which at St. John Cantius is called the missa normativa).
Heather from Oregon sounds like a born-again woman, financially speaking. “I finally got everything paid. . . . No more credit cards, no more student loan!“ She thanks radio personality and anticredit crusader Dave Ramsey for freeing her from her bondage to consumer debt.She's not the only Ramsey fan. The tough-talking, quick-witted evangelical radio personality from Nashville has an audience of millions that includes both religious and secular listeners.
Surgeon general appointees are often controversial, usually for reasons having to do with sex. Conservatives fumed when C. Everett Koop praised the virtues of the condom and when Jocelyn Elders extolled the virtues of masturbation.
A friend of mine has an idea for teaching youth about sex: have them view one of those graphic birthing videos that the hospital has for first-time parents, the kind that shows the crowning and the afterbirth, the agony and the joy. The kids will get the idea.
One of the bright points in Barack Obama’s rising political star is his ability to talk about Jesus without faking it. But his enemies, including right-wing bloggers and TV pundits, are complaining that Obama’s church—Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago—embraces an Africentrism that is separatist or even racist. Just what is this Africentrism?
After focusing early in his life on topics in analytic philosophy and religion, David Burrell, C.S.C., turned to studying comparative issues in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He is the author of Knowing the Unknowable God: Ibn-Sina, Maimonides, Aquinas (University of Notre Dame Press, 1986) and Freedom and Creation in Three Traditions (Notre Dame, 1993).
The Way That Leads There: Augustinian Reflections on the Christian Life
There is much to celebrate in this important new book by one of the finest moral theologians writing today. Gilbert Meilaender of Valparaiso University gives us a fine example of “thinking with Augustine” about such crucial topics as desire, duty, sex and grief.
During John Paul II’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2000, the frail pontiff visited the Western Wall, the remnant of the ancient Jewish Temple. With quivering hands he placed in a crevice of the wall a piece of paper on which he had written a prayer.
On a recent trip to Jordan, no one directing my tour group objected to my meeting with Christian evangelicals. But the evangelicals were nervous. They are carefully conforming to the role that Jordan has given them: providing social services and avoiding activities that could invite government suspicion—like preaching or distributing Bibles. Publicly they state, “We’re not here to change anyone’s religion, we’re here to help people.”“Still,” one of them added later, “If I get five minutes with someone I’m going to share the gospel.” There are few stories of Jordanian Muslims converting to Christianity. Evangelical missionaries explain that it takes time, but they also seem frustrated that the Jordanian government hasn’t recognized their efforts to moderate their language and behavior.
Pity the poor book. Its obituary has been written many times as prognosticators glance over the horizon and predict that the Internet and downloadable literature and e-books will soon replace pages-between-covers.
There is something charmingly quaint about Sam Harris’s new book, Letter to a Christian Nation. If not for religious belief, he says, this country would be pouring resources into such worthy efforts to alleviate suffering as stem cell research, not indulging in hand-wringing over preposterous moral qualms about the destruction of embryos.
What is missing from the camp portrayed in Jesus Camp, or at least from the film account of it, is the fun. In my church camp days, I enticed non-Christian friends to go to my camp by telling them how much fun it would be. My counselors taught me how to canoe, how to fake fart, how to belay up a rope and how to flirt with girls. The counselors were college kids who were “on fire for Jesus,” but they loved me for myself—not as a future foot soldier in the jihad for America. That’s why I accepted their faith. If it was faith in Jesus that made them love me and others and allowed—no, encouraged—an unbridled pursuit of fun, I wanted in and I wanted to tell others about it. I still do.
Reading the Bible with the Damned. By Bob Eckblad. Westminster John Knox, 2005.
A stunning book about how studying scripture with the poor, with illegal immigrants, and especially with the imprisoned can produce extraordinarily beautiful readings—and hopefully, more redemptive politics.
Discipline and Punish. By Michel Foucault. Vintage, 1995.
In one of those neglected corners of scripture that must scare those brave enough to think about it, Jesus promises an unpleasant future for those who would not visit him in prison: “Just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matt. 25:45).
If yesteryear’s evangelical church was a castle in the exurbs, Jacob's Well is a rehabilitated loft in the city. Evangelical churches attract young people with spaces stripped of Christian symbols and tradition; worshipers at JW like its dark wood, stained glass and high ceilings. Other churches would be thrilled to have 1,000 attenders; JW worries that it will lose the intimacy that nurtures community and friendship. And stewardship? Jacob's Well urges members to give time or money only out of gratitude.
Last year six men joined a string of theologians who are leaving their Protestant denominations for the church of Rome. They included three Lutherans, two Anglicans and a Mennonite. All of them had strong connections to mainline institutions. All fit the description “postliberal”—accepting such mainline practices as historical criticism and women’s ordination while wanting the church to exhibit more robust dogmatic commitments. All embraced an evangelical, catholic and orthodox vision of the church. And none of them could see a way to be all those things within mainline denominations.