Abraham haunts me. When I wrote my first Faith Matters column in 1997, I began with those three words. At that time I was in transition—moving from Maryland to North Carolina, and from a faculty position teaching undergraduates at Loyola College in Maryland to a position as dean of Duke Divinity School.
Once upon a time, Europe lived in an age of faith, which found buoyant expression in the massive popularity of pilgrimage. Pilgrimage shrines flourished across Europe, some drawing millions of followers each year, and new pilgrimage destinations emerged regularly to meet the demand.
It’s tempting to blame partisan politics for last summer’s debacle over “death panels” and the very idea of doctors and patients holding conversations about the end of life. But the truth is: these conversations are difficult. Although some people welcome them, others approach the subject of death cautiously. Many of us would rather not explore what awaits us in the final years or weeks of life. Perhaps this reluctance explains why only one in five Americans has completed an advance directive for medical care.
In the movie District 9, an alien spaceship stalls in the skies above Johannesburg. After three months with no communication, South Africans decide to board the ship, only to find a million aliens who need rescuing. They move them to District 9, an area that’s a cross between a township and a refugee camp.
Recently three fraternities have been either closed or suspended by their national organization. Caitlin Flanagan made a yearlong study of the Greek fraternity system and concluded that alcohol is the root of fraternity problems. When Phi Delta Theta decided 12 years ago to make its houses alcohol free, people predicted its demise. “It’s more popular than ever, and its amount of sexual assault, hazing, assault and battery . . . have [sic] dropped by 85 percent,” Flanagan says. “If you get alcohol out, you’ll reform the system” (NPR, March 21).