Busted Halo
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November 27th, 2007
Five recommended spiritual reads for Advent and Christmas

This year will be different.
That’s the promise many of us make to ourselves just after Thanksgiving each year. We make silent oaths that we won’t spend too much on Christmas presents. We tell ourselves that we won’t overindulge at holiday fêtes, and that we’ll take some time to really …savor the true meaning of the season.
We kickoff our Christmas preparations with the best of intentions, but often we don’t nurture any part of ourselves other than our latent inner shopper. Yet, the days of Advent and Christmas can be most meaningful when we take time to attend to our spiritual lives.
Fortunately, there are a number of great resources out there to help. A great antidote to the

November 19th, 2007
A review of A Jesuit Off-Broadway

In his latest book, James Martin, SJ explores the work of a contemporary priest and exemplifies the quintessential Jesuit as cultured, literate believer who seeks to “find God in all things, in all peoples and in all environments.”
A Jesuit Off-Broadway recounts the months Martin—author of My Life with the Saints and an editor at America magazine—spends as the theological advisor and unofficial chaplain for the LABryinth Theater Company in New York while they mounted a brand new play The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. When company member Sam Rockwell (The Assassination of Jesse James…) took the role of Judas he sought out Martin for crash courses on New Testament theology, the historical

November 8th, 2007
The author of The Year of Living Biblically talks about what it's like to live by "The Book"

Countless believers pride themselves on leading Bible-based lives, but let’s face it: there’s a big difference between donating to the Christian Children’s Fund and downloading Jars of Clay onto your iPod, and diving headlong into the ancient world of Moses and King David—swearing off clothing made of mixed fibers, stoning adulterers, and growing a beard that makes you resemble the Unabomber.
In his latest book, The Year of Living Biblically, Esquire… editor A.J. Jacobs sought the “ultimate ancient-Israelite experience,” devoting 365 days of his life to following the Good Word—as literally as possible. Jacobs set out to obey every rule in the Bible. Thus,

November 6th, 2007
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist discusses fathers, sons, a vanishing America and Bridge of Sighs

Some believe him to be the “Bard of Main Street USA.” Throughout the six novels he has published since 1986, Richard Russo has created stories of small town American life worthy of Sherwood Anderson—the twentieth century American author of Winesburg, Ohio to whom Russo is ofen compared.
Six years after winning the Pulitzer Prize for his 2001 novel Empire Falls, Russo returns with Bridge of Sighs, another richly observed rendering of a fictional small town, Thomaston, NY. Like other worlds of Russo’s making both as a novelist and a screenwriter (Nobody’s Fool, Empire Falls…) Thomaston comes alive with the author’s gift for enormously descriptive detail. In true Russo

November 5th, 2007
The author of Oil and Water interprets Islam for a Western audience

Amir Hussain—who describes himself as a Pakistani-born Canadian Muslim and teaches theology at a Jesuit university in Los Angeles—is intent on spreading a message: There is more that unites than divides us. Written for Christians by a Muslim, his new book, Oil and Water: Two Faiths, One God, explores the differences between Christianity and Islam—but more importantly—what these two faiths have in common, paving the way for meaningful dialogue and ultimately, reconciliation.
Hussain is considered a leading specialist on Islam and is currently a Department of Theological Studies assistant professor at Loyola Marymount University. He recently spoke with BustedHalo… about

November 1st, 2007
Fr. Roderick Vonhogen a new media pioneer from the heart of the Netherlands

As Pope John Paul II lay dying, thousands of pilgrims and other well-wishers gathered outside his window, offering prayers, hoping for a miracle or at least a glimpse of the ailing Pontiff. One of those pilgrims was Fr. Roderick Vonhogen, a Dutch priest from Amersfoort in the Netherlands, who had begun immersing himself in a new form of technology called podcasting, a short-form digital radio show that is easily captured through the internet.
As Fr. Roderick saw people’s reactions during the Pope’s last days, he began to wander around, digital recorder in hand and ask questions of the younger people in St. Peter’s Square. He added some of his own commentary and then posted his podcast on the…

October 29th, 2007
DAM brings the Palestinian struggle into the world of rap

In much of the hip hop music world the constant threat of menace and violence is simply a given. Few would argue that a large part of the music’s appeal is deeply tied up with the sense of danger that certain artists evoke and that considerable energy and resources are spent to establish an artist’s “street cred” by promoting their history of poverty, violence and their prison record. Despite the fact that much of that sense of danger may very well be manufactured, it can make a big difference to the bottom line: music and ticket sales.
As an American in my mid-twenties, hip-hop has been a musical cornerstone of my adolescence. Normally, attending a hip-hop concert on a warm summer night wouldn’t…

October 26th, 2007
The monks of Myanmar move mountains through faith

To the people, they are courageous political activists. To the government, they are conniving political agitators. They have suffered unspeakable cruelty at the hands of a military regime while refraining from exhibiting similar violence. Slowly though, they are changing the tide, armed with nothing but their faith and perseverance. Many people today are quick to blame religion for being the root of all wars and bloodshed in the history of mankind. Certainly the history books offer plenty of evidence to support that observation. But the Buddhist monks of Burma, through their unprecedented protests and now victimization, show that perhaps religion and faith in general are not always the root of war, but…

October 25th, 2007
Earnest but off-key, Bella preaches to the choir

Metanoia films’ mission statement “to make films that matter and have the potential of making a meaningful difference in people’s lives” is both lofty and laudable. To the young company’s credit their first film, Bella has received some attention on the festival circuit—most notably the People’s Choice award at the Toronto film fest—and is about to be released in selected cities over the next few weeks. While Bella… will most likely matter and make a difference to some audiences, its earnest attempts to straddle different worlds has decidedly mixed results.
Much of the story follows the main characters, Nina (Tammy Blanchard, above left) and José

October 17th, 2007
Evening out life's balance sheet

One December, when my fiancée and I were visiting her friend in New Haven, I found a wallet in the stairwell of a parking garage. It was thick with credit and debit cards. There was approximately $55 in cash inside. The driver’s license gave an address in Oregon. A Yale University ID gave the woman’s name, but no address. It seemed unsafe to simply mail it to the address, so when we returned to my father’s home in Massachusetts, I found her on the Yale University directory. She responded to my email. I asked her if I could use some of the cash to cover the cost of mailing it to her, and she said sure, and I sent everything to her.
Why? “Not everyone would have done that,” my fiancée…

October 16th, 2007
Speaking with the author of American Jesus about his new book Religious Literacy

In the past decade Stephen Prothero, Chair of the Department of Religion at Boston University, has emerged as a national expert and resource on religious education and literacy in the United States. His 2003 book, American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon, also received widespread acclaim and led to appearances on CNN, NBC, FOX, PBS, “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart and Oprah Winfrey. He has commented on religion on dozens of National Public Radio programs and is a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal.
Prothero’s latest book, Religious Literacy: What Americans Need to Know…, has received high praise for its unbiased critique of American’s low religious IQ.

October 15th, 2007
The Challenges of Long-Distance Relationships

A few months ago I received a letter from Jeff Klein, a 32-year-old BustedHalo reader. He’d recently begun dating someone who lived seven hours away. Was it feasible to have a relationship? They both led busy, professional lives and had active social lives in their respective cities. What was my advice, Jeff asked. Was a long-distance relationship a good idea?
A long-distance relationship (LDR) is one in which partners reside in separate geographic locations for some reason (work, school, etc.) and reunite (each weekend, each month, a few times a year) for time together. According to academic research on LDRs—yes, academics study long-distance relationships!—voluntary LDRs are on…

October 11th, 2007
Sean Penn's Into the Wild stuns and disappoints

How much of your life do you owe to the ones who love you? What are your obligations to the imperfect people who raise and care for you, as you set out to forge an individual sense of self?
In 1995, the author John Krakauer (Into Thin Air, Under the Banner of Heaven) wrote Into the Wild…, the true story of Christopher McCandless, a young Emory graduate from an affluent Washington DC suburb. Inspired by Tolstoy, Thoreau and Jack London, McCandless gave all his savings to Oxfam, drove to Arizona, left his car, and wandered the western U.S. for two years in an austere search for authenticity and spiritual wisdom. He communed with graying flower-children in California, kayaked through Colorado River rapids, and worked a

October 10th, 2007
The Academy Award nominee talks about his newest film Lars and the Real Girl

For the sake of argument, I think it’s safe to assume that terms like “anatomically correct sex doll” and “sweet and tenderhearted” have rarely, if ever, appeared in the same sentence —at least not with a straight face (trust me, I’ve googled it). And yet somehow screenwriter Nancy Oliver has taken what on its surface sounds like a strange joke and fashioned it into a strangely compelling story.
With the help of Ryan Gosling in the title role and director Craig Gillespie, Oliver’s Lars and the Real Girl… for the most part manages to fuse the profoundly personal and the perversely plastic into a believably warm, human and—I kid you not—innocent

October 8th, 2007
The new documentary for the Bible tells me so re-examines the scriptural prohibition toward homosexuality

What do Christianity and Judaism say about gays and lesbians? Even the most nominal believer is familiar with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and the chapter in Leviticus forbidding same sex intercourse. But scriptural scholarship actually presents a much more nuanced understanding of those famous Hebrew Testament passages than most followers know and one at odds with what is taught from most pulpits. For example, several hundred years of religious scholarship interprets the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah as inhospitality, not homosexuality and the famous “Man shall not lie with man as with woman” verse as an insistence on procreation to build the Israelites society, not a comment on gay relationships,…

September 27th, 2007
The Religious Landscape of People in their 20s and 30s

In many ways, the 18-to-34-year-old crowd is a sought-after demographic. Advertisers continually try to lure young fashionistas, techies and foodies with their cutting-edge wares. Television executives craft sitcoms and reality shows hoping to capture the interest of this population. The Catholic Church, too, seeks their energy, enthusiasm and talents.
But appealing to these young adults in way that leads to lifelong commitment presents a challenge. How can an institution with a 2,000 year history, that’s not typically known for its innovation or it speed, attract and engage young adults, who prize the immediacy of text messaging and Google searches, change careers every two to three years,…

September 25th, 2007
Mother Teresa's life in full

Saints are most commonly seen in two dimensions, as they appear in devotional artwork. Frozen in stained glass or canvas, they serenely eye the heavens as their hands bless and pray, or register the sweet pain of martyrdom. The figures’ piety, untroubled by human temptations, lends them a sort of beatific flatness. They frequently look like caricatures, not real people of flesh and blood.
Consider the recent case of Gonxha Agnes Bojaxhiu, better known as Mother Teresa of Calcutta. While her Missionaries of Charity served among the world’s desperately poor, Teresa’s careworn smile became an icon of sanctity for the television age. As the praise mounted, she took great pains to emphasize…

September 20th, 2007
The young director of the Leadership Roundtable makes the connection between faith and best practices

It is a tragedy that appears to have no end. Recent announcements of enormous clergy abuse settlements in Los Angeles ($660 million) and San Diego ($198 million) underscore the sense that—more than five years into it—the full ramifications of the sex abuse scandal in the United States have yet to be fully understood. Add to that the corruption trial involving former diocesan officials in Cleveland and it would seem that Catholics in the United States have every reason to walk out in despair. And yet—for reasons also not yet fully understood—despite this endless stream of bad news, Catholic churches in the United States aren’t showing signs of emptying.
While the ability of…

September 19th, 2007
An interview with the media visionary behind "Faces of Faith"

As both the founder of an online religion blog and a contributor to BustedHalo and other web-based religious news sites like Beliefnet, The Revealer and KillingtheBuddha… there’s one thing I’ve observed: the simplest changes in terms of design or function can often take eons to implement. In other words, like Rome, a religion website isn’t built in a day.
Or so I thought, until last week when I discovered Faces of Faith in America, a new religion news site that suddenly appeared on the web and that’s as cool and contemporary as any faith url out there. The sleek look and all the fun interactive elements aside, the site seemingly burst into existence with more than 80 top-notch video and print

September 14th, 2007
The Religious Landscape of People in their 20s and 30s

The publication of Mike Hayes’ book Googling God is an important first on a number of levels for everyone involved with BustedHalo. Not only does it mark the publication of our managing editor’s first book, it is also the debut of our new publishing imprint, BustedHalo Books, through Paulist Press. Plans are already underway to publish other titles through BustedHalo Books in the near future, including the Freshman Survival Guide and Moral Dilemmas, so stay tuned. But for now we hope you enjoy this brief excerpt from Googling God.

When Paulist Father Brett Hoover and I founded BustedHalo.com… in 2000, our mission was to minister to the “spiritual but not religious crowd” in their 20s

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