In Laurence Cossé's A
Corner of the Veil, a French novel translated into English in 1999, a
society of priests known as the Casuists come upon the proof of the existence
of God. (The proof is a document mailed to the editor of the society's
magazine, a point of fact that endeared the book to me right away, since I open
the Century's mail.)
A few weeks ago, on my way home on a crowded rush-hour train, I was
slouched down in my seat trying to hide my uncontrollable crying. I was sobbing
not for the lost souls of the world but because I had reached the end of Unbroken,
a new book by Laura Hillenbrand. As embarrassing as my public display of
emotion was, I could not stop reading.
I'd like to see this award-winning journalist's book read by
all Christians--from evangelicals who believe that their life's calling is to save
souls to those Christians who, while denouncing proselytizing, feel called to offer
compassionate, practical aid to those who need help. For either of the above
missionary types, Griswold dispels illusions. She is fearless in following a story
into the most remote village, and wise in her understanding of how religions
collide and inflame and exacerbate volatile situations.
If you had asked the pastor of the mainline
church I grew up in how his congregation was addressing public issues like
poverty, health or education, he would have pointed to a few church-sponsored
programs (like a child-care center and a Meals on Wheels program) but he would
also have named church members who were doctors, civil servants and public
A few years ago, when I was researching a story
in Veracruz, Mexico, the proprietor of a small cantina and I struck up a
conversation. When talk turned to religion, Señor Gonzalez shyly asked if I
would like to see one of his most highly prized treasures.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer has become
an almost mythical being, whose legacy everyone seems intent on claiming. From death-of-God
theologians to evangelicals to radical antiabortionists, partisans of all
stripes have remade Bonhoeffer in their own image.
about a religion is a dangerous thing. A generalization that had seemed safe
was that Buddhism is a peaceful religion. It's all about compassion, isn't
it—about renouncing desire and learning to empty yourself?
A woman came to my house recently whose
husband I had helped put in jail the day before. One day she felt afraid of his
violence. The next she felt ambivalent about her choice, and she wanted my help
to get him out of jail. While I had helped her call the police, I wasn't
willing to pay his bond.
Back in the '70s when Steven Apfelbaum told his mom he was
studying for a degree in ecology, his mother didn't know what to think. Unable
to accept or perhaps even understand this new specialty, she told friends that
"Little Stevie was going to be a veterinarian." She wasn't the only one