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.
Several years ago, my daughter, who is a Methodist pastor, received an appointment to a small charge in North Carolina’s tobacco country. One day a parishioner informed her that Francis Asbury had preached at a camp meeting at a nearby lake.
The challenge of telling other people’s stories is an occupational hazard for journalists, historians, memoirists, conflict mediators and even preachers. Getting the facts accurate is only part of the challenge. Storytellers have to grapple with the most effective way to tell the story and what perspective to take or interpretive remarks to include.
While out of town on a recent Sunday morning I found my way to a
Lutheran church for worship. After the sermon, when it was time to say
the Apostle’s Creed, the pastor began with a question: “Who are you
people? A secular world, jaded and weary, wonders why you are gathered
North Korea may be the most dangerous country in the world for Christians. About a fourth of the country’s Christians, who number between 200,000 and 400,000, are thought to be living in forced labor camps because of their refusal to participate in the cult that surrounds the nation’s founder, Kim Il-sung. Animosity toward Christians is so strong that North Koreans with Christian grandparents are denied important jobs. Kim Il-sung’s mother, who is the great-grandmother of current leader Kim Jong-un, was a Presbyterian deaconess (Crux, December 20).