May 15, 2007
On a recent trip to Southeast Asia, I visited the historic complex of Buddhist and Hindu temples at Angkor, near the city of Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia. The temples are spread out over 40 square miles; on a two-day look-see, one can do scant justice even to the major ones, such as the 12th-century Angkor Wat, generally considered the greatest masterpiece of Khmer architecture.
Recently 98,000 ministers found a gift in their mailboxes: a special edition of Efraim Karsh’s Islamic Imperialism, compliments of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Why such generosity? “We learned a lot from this book and wanted to share it with religious leaders,” an IRD spokesperson said when I called to inquire.
Neither Jews nor Christians (except for some evangelicals) were theologically prepared for the 20th-century return of the Jewish people to sovereignty in their ancient homeland of Israel. For most Christians, history was not supposed to turn out like this. St. Augustine held that, having rejected Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish people were punished with the experience of exile, dispersion, wandering and homelessness.
After focusing early in his life on topics in analytic philosophy and religion, David Burrell, C.S.C., turned to studying comparative issues in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He is the author of Knowing the Unknowable God: Ibn-Sina, Maimonides, Aquinas (University of Notre Dame Press, 1986) and Freedom and Creation in Three Traditions (Notre Dame, 1993).
Having been a student of Islamic philosophy and teacher of Islam for a quarter century, I was baffled by the skewed presentation of Islam that Pope Benedict XVI offered in his speech at Regensburg, Germany, in September 2006. As a student paper, it would have failed for lack of organization.
The practice of tattooing has nearly always been rejected in Christian tradition. The usual proof text is Leviticus 19:28: “You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord.” That verse has been regarded as an injunction against pagan rituals, but also as a call to honor God’s good creation as it is manifested in our bodies.
It seems like yesterday that Indian-born director Mira Nair burst onto the international scene with Salaam Bombay! about the street children of that sprawling Asian city. In fact, it has been almost 20 years. During that time Nair has carved out an impressive career with such culturally sensitive films as Mississippi Masala, Kama Sutra and Monsoon Wedding. She now adds to that august list with The Namesake.
Several years ago I engaged in a public dialogue with a Roman Catholic theologian about prayers to the saints. I went into the discussion with my mind made up on the subject. We Protestants—especially we evangelicals—do not pray to anyone but God. Directing our prayers in any other direction is at best theologically confused and at worst idolatrous. I came away, though, a little less convinced that the theological case was as tightly shut as I had thought.
Spin zone: The Iraq war was not the first one to be encouraged by sectors of the media. The Spanish-American War was set off when an explosion destroyed a U.S. warship while it was docked in Havana. Publisher William Randolph Hearst was itching for a fight with Spain. He sent hordes of reporters to Cuba to cover the explosion and within days was spinning the news to blame Spain. War against Spain was soon declared (Columbia Journalism Review, March/April).