Painting of books

Mysterious beginnings

What kind of book is Herman Melville's Moby Dick? Is it a book about whaling? In some ways it is—full of empirical information on the subject. Is it a novel about the perennial mystery of evil and its impact on the human spirit? It is that too.
June 1, 1999

Rocks of Ages, by Stephen Jay Gould

We could avoid all sorts of nasty fights, Stephen Jay Gould argues, if we would stop expecting science to provide validating evidence for religious dogmas or biblical events. Nor ought we to turn to religion to resolve questions of a properly scientific nature. He wants no more natural theology, no more "anthropic principle," no more attempts to find scientific confirmation for religious beliefs, and no more fundamentalist "creation science." In short, "science gets the age of rocks, and religion the rock of ages; science studies how the heavens go, religion how to go to heaven."
June 1, 1999

Extravagant Affections, by Susan A. Ross

A priest poses the question to a group of children: "How many sacraments are there?" Without missing a beat a little girl responds: "Seven for boys, and six for girls." The math may differ for different communions, with fewer sacraments distributed more equitably among the genders, but Susan A. Ross of Loyola University raises questions that no sacramental tradition can ignore. She posits a principle all traditions could embrace: all of life is potentially revelatory of the divine. Then Ross surveys all facets of her question: how can one construct a sacramental theology that takes the bodies of men and women as seriously as it takes the body of Christ?
June 1, 1999

Second thoughts

Paul Weyrich, the conservative activist who coined the term "moral majority" for Jerry Falwell, created a minor controversy in January by urging conservatives to abandon attempts to win the culture war through electoral politics. Blinded by Might is the evangelical equivalent to Weyrich's letter and has evoked a similarly heated response among religious conservatives.
May 18, 1999

Preaching to America

This splendid and judiciously selected collection of sermons begins and ends in the promised land. Puritan Robert Cushman's sermon is the earliest extant sermon preached on American soil and the first to be printed. Given in Plymouth in 1621, it launches the American quest for the promised land with a heartfelt appeal to communal love and care.
May 18, 1999

Declaring interdependence

We are living at a time of crisis—a time in which the health (if not the survival) of the entire community of life, human and nonhuman, is at risk." So writes Douglas Sturm in this finely crafted book.
May 18, 1999