May 19, 1999

vol 116 No. 16

Issue contents are posted gradually throughout the two-week publication cycle. The entire magazine is also available to subscribers as a PDF download via the link above.

Declaring interdependence

We are living at a time of crisis—a time in which the health (if not the survival) of the entire community of life, human and nonhuman, is at risk." So writes Douglas Sturm in this finely crafted book.
May 18, 1999

Beyond inertia

I am busy these days, so I'd just like to be able to sit down, write a straightforward review of David Ford's book, and be done with it. But I can't. This book has already begun to interfere with my life. It may even end up costing me real money. That check for the Kosovo relief effort I am now writing in my mind keeps getting outrageously larger. I worry that I might actually put it in the mail.
May 18, 1999

What would Jesus do?

Some of my students wear bracelets bearing the legend "WWJD"—What Would Jesus Do? Sometimes in the midst of a discussion about some hard issue, I ask a student sporting such a bracelet to apply that question to the problem. The replies range from embarrassed silence and empty platitudes to wonderfully astute observations. The astute replies are usually based on the story or stories of Jesus, and exercise what William Spohn calls "the analogical imagination." 
May 18, 1999

Disciplines of listening

Barbara Brown Taylor's concise, pithy and challenging prose is evidence that she is practicing what she preaches: that Christian pastors take more care with the words they use and treat language with economy, courtesy and reverence.
May 18, 1999

Disasters and deformities

Several years have passed since I last encountered a book by Annie Dillard, but her images remain as strong in the memory as Proust's madeleine. Her gaze concentrates on the ordinary until it is transformed into the transcendent: a tree so intensely colored that it gives off light; a sky's invisible clouds revealed only in reflected images on the surface of a glassy lake; a bowl of pond water where one-celled creatures are visible to the naked eye.
May 18, 1999

Animal rights, human claims

Are vegetarians trying to save animals or are they trying to save themselves? Is vegetarianism about changing the world or escaping from it? These are questions the acclaimed novelist and critic J. M. Coetzee raises in a wonderfully inventive and inconclusive book.
May 18, 1999

Civic mission on campus

Beginning in the 17th century and extending through the 19th, establishing colleges was a primary Protestant strategy. Even groups like the Methodists and Baptists, which initially downplayed the importance of higher education, soon joined the founding frenzy.
May 18, 1999

Colonial horrors

"The Horror! The horror!" the last words of the infamous Kurtz in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, call attention to one of the worst episodes of systematic exploitation and murder in recent history.
May 18, 1999

Attending to the other

The literary critic John Bayley has written a deeply affecting lament for his late wife, the philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch, as she disappeared into the insidious fog of Alzheimer's. She died at roughly the same time the book was published, in January of this year. Yet Bayley's book is not only a threnody; it is also an epithalamium, a nuptial hymn offered in praise of their 40-some years of marriage.
May 18, 1999

The art of dying

Since most people today die of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, stroke or dementia, and many live with these diseases for years, this handbook will be enormously helpful for pastors, patients and families. The book gives compassionate and sensible guidance to those seeking to negotiate the difficult spiritual and medical terrain that surrounds the experience of dying.
May 18, 1999

Second thoughts

Paul Weyrich, the conservative activist who coined the term "moral majority" for Jerry Falwell, created a minor controversy in January by urging conservatives to abandon attempts to win the culture war through electoral politics. Blinded by Might is the evangelical equivalent to Weyrich's letter and has evoked a similarly heated response among religious conservatives.
May 18, 1999

Preaching to America

This splendid and judiciously selected collection of sermons begins and ends in the promised land. Puritan Robert Cushman's sermon is the earliest extant sermon preached on American soil and the first to be printed. Given in Plymouth in 1621, it launches the American quest for the promised land with a heartfelt appeal to communal love and care.
May 18, 1999