Dec 02, 2008
The role of religion in the presidential campaign was summed up by Associated Press religion writer Eric Gorski in an article headlined “Religion Used to Divide, Mock in ’08.” Lamenting the low level of discussion of religion, Gorski ran through a YouTubed array of controversies, from the inflammatory preachings of Jeremiah Wright and John Hagee to Mike Huckabee’s thoughts on whether Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers to a witch-hunting Kenyan pastor’s prayer over Sarah Palin.
Mary Doria Russell’s novels include intricately drawn characters who explore life’s deepest and most troubling questions. She is perhaps best known for her first novel, The Sparrow (1996), and its sequel, Children of God (1998), about human contact with aliens on a space mission organized by Jesuits. Her most recent novel, Dreamers of the Day, released in May, is set in 1921 and concerns the Cairo Peace Conference and the shaping of the modern Middle East.
Organizations committed to helping the addicted and the homeless can be found in every city. Few of them resemble the Recovery Café. As founder Killian Noe told me, “It looks like a Starbucks.”
Sure enough, the site is painted in welcoming and trendy bright blue and red, with exposed pipes in the ceiling and with gobs of sunshine (at least by Seattle standards) pouring through the glass front wall.
In the story of David and Goliath, Saul famously insisted that David be outfitted in his own kingly armor. While this was a generous gesture, David found that he could hardly move. Rejecting the clunky armor, David retrieved five smooth stones for his sling.
Screenwriters love structure: it gives them something to focus on as they plow ahead in their storytelling or to retreat to if they get off track. Familiar structures include the road movie (looking for answers), the journey film (home to Ithaca) and the sit-by-the-fireplace flashback (“Let me tell you about Heathcliffe”).
I did not own one for ages. The first reason was personal: driving the car was a kind of Sabbath for me, with nothing to do but listen to music and watch the scenery. Why muck that up with a ringing telephone? The second reason was ecological: if I detested the microwave towers that were springing up all over the countryside, then why participate in their proliferation? The third reason was numerical: I could barely juggle seven numbers, much less ten, but every new cell phone in the world nudged me nearer the necessity of dialing ten digit telephone numbers with weird new area codes.
Just when it seemed that the interminable presidential campaign had plumbed every depth of the absurd, witchcraft entered the picture. To the hilarity of Sarah Palin’s liberal critics, a video surfaced in which Kenyan Pentecostal bishop Thomas Muthee had invoked blessings on Palin, asking among other things that God “keep her safe from every form of witchcraft.” To many people this request discredited Palin’s faith, along with churches so apparently out of touch with modernity as to accept the reality of demons and witchcraft.
Squatters’ (divine) rights: To a Pentecostal community of squatters in Caracas, Venezuela, studied by Rafael Sánchez, their occupation of an empty, 12-story building in what was once a posh part of the town makes good theological sense. The world really belongs to God, they explain, but the devil has taken it over, and Christians’ job, as agents of the Holy Spirit, is to take back what really belongs to God (Public Culture, Spring).