I recently flew with my family from Tel Aviv to Boston via Rome. The day was full of long lines, bomb-sniffing dogs, the opening and searching of overfull suitcases and the struggles to close them up again. In Rome, every single person on our flight was patted down and searched. We must have shown our passports 20 times.Impromptu debates arose as people from all over the world waited in line together. Was it better to search for the explosive device, as the Americans do, or for the bomber, as the Israelis do? Do the airlines need better technology or better training in behavioral screening? Has the war on terror made us more safe or less?
In spite of my best intentions, somewhere around Halloween my ability to stay on top of things begins to unravel. It gets more and more difficult to wake up before the sun and harder to meet all the demands of each day, or even of the previous day. As things left undone accumulate and the hours of daylight diminish, a kind of lethargy sets in.
It is autumn again, and life is speeding up. Students are back in school, classes are beginning and the fall programs of churches are in full swing. Wouldn’t it be good to find a spiritual discipline for these days that would remind us of the pace and the blessings of summer?
I’ve been wondering who would be a good patron saint for the deepening recession in which we find ourselves. The obvious candidates are those paragons of frugality who learned to live without a steady income or the comfort of regular meals. St. Francis, who threw off his clothes and took to the streets, alms bowl in hand, comes to mind. So does St. Clare.
“I am looking for a way to vocalize, perform, act out, address the commonly felt crises of my time,” Terry Tempest Williams writes in her new book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World (Pantheon). “These are spiritual exercises.”
It’s the day after the election, and I am clicking around on one of the many interactive maps of the nation available on the Internet. I’ve found one that shows, in reds and blues, how every single county in the nation voted. You click on a state and the data for each county appear, down to the very last vote.
My husband and I found the WorldWide Telescope a few months ago, and we’ve been staring into the heavens ever since. “Which planet would you like to see first?” he asked me once he'd loaded the program onto his computer. No question: Saturn. I’ve always been fascinated by those rings. A few clicks of the mouse and there they were, circling and circling, a sash of light, a halo, a crown. We looked at Jupiter next, with its great red spot. We looked at Mercury, Venus, Mars and Pluto. Each planet was unique, different from every other. But what they had in common was this: they shone out of utter darkness.
In American theological education, we are in the midst of recruitment season. Applications to M.Div. programs across the country have been read and argued over by admissions committees, and offers of admission have gone out in the mail. Now we are wooing our accepted students, making the case that our school is the right place for them to become the ministers God is calling them to be.
The release of the film version of Philip Pullman’s novel The Golden Compass has reinvigorated the controversy over his trilogy, His Dark Materials. Proclaimed “worthy of the bonfire” when first published, Pullman’s books have evoked from some Christians the kind of response that one might expect from the church as described in the trilogy itself.
Several summers ago, I visited the early medieval monastic site of Glendalough with students and faculty from a seminary in Dublin. The site dates back to the sixth century, when St. Kevin (led by an angel, according to tradition) founded a monastery there.
Three senior pastors of large mainline churches describe, in the words of one, their "ascent out of liberalism." They offer fragmentary glimpses of how a postliberal church, exiled from cultural prominence, ought to read scripture, preach, worship, form faithful Christians and engage in social action.