Busted Halo
Features : Religion & Spirituality
May 22nd, 2006
Jewish-Christians at USC struggle with the effects of conversion to Christianity

David Allen’s parents wanted him to see a psychiatrist. Why? Not because he was depressed, taking drugs or getting bad grades in college but because he wanted to convert to Christianity.
Allen is one of several Jewish-Christians at the University of Southern California who belong to Chaim, a new Christian organization on USC’s campus that claims to provide an environment where Jewish students can learn more about Jesus, and Christian students more about Judaism.
Raised a reformed Jew, Allen (who requested that his real name not be used) made fun of Jesus and Christians when he was growing up, but while dating a Christian girl, he met a friend of her family who introduced him to Christianity.
That’s…

May 14th, 2006
And an unexpected grace

Two years after my husband Greg and I were married, word came from his Aunt and Uncle in Florida that there was a problem with his grandmother. In one of those awful flukes, Kodak, the company she had worked for all her life, had made an error in her pension. They had been underpaying her for years. This might seem like good news but now that she’d be getting more money, she was no longer eligible to receive the aid that kept her in the private nursing home in Florida she had lived in since a stroke nearly ten years before had left her paralyzed on her right side, unable to walk, speak, wash or dress herself. She would be moved to a state-run facility. No one in the family wanted this to happen but there seemed to be no other…

May 9th, 2006
In the spirit of Judas, National Geographic announces plans for a two-hour special: Even More Gospels!

Through The Gospel of Judas, one of the greatest historical discoveries in the history of humankind, the world’s eyes were opened to a revolutionary view of the disciple traditionally known as Christ’s betrayer. No longer the traitor, Judas is portrayed in the new Gospel as carrying out Jesus’ command to give him up to the authorities: “You will exceed all of them [the twelve apostles]. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me….You will become the thirteenth, and you will be cursed by the other generations—and you will come to rule over them.”
Continuing in the spirit of this monumental discovery, the National Geographic Society has authorized the pre-release of several other newly unearthed…

May 1st, 2006
United 93 honors losses that are both national and personal

The fact that we know how director Paul Greeengrass’ United 93 ends somehow makes the film all the more harrowing to watch. We know that the doomed September 11th flight out of Newark airport will be overtaken by terrorists and targeted for the U.S. Capitol. We also know that a group of passengers will rally and force the plane to crash in a field in Shanksville, PA with no survivors. Greengrass gives Americans the chance to re-live a piece of our national nightmare and nearly five years later the wound is still fresh; having known a member of the flight crew personally made an already difficult film to watch into an excruciating experience.
United Flight attendant Debbie Welsh was a member of my parish, and I…

April 20th, 2006
A Guide to the new reality show God or the Girl

With its mix of equal parts “The Bachelor” and “Jackass” with a spiritual twist, A&E’s new reality series, “God or the Girl” has people talking. The five-part show follows the lives of four young men who struggle with making a decision to pursue studying for the priesthood instead of staying in a relationship with a significant other.
The four “contestants” offer an accurate reflection of the diversity of young adult faith experiences, ranging from highly pious to the irreverent. While “God or the Girl” makes an attempt to honestly portray how these men struggle with their decision, it sometimes stoops to sprinkling in stupid…

April 7th, 2006
Colliding head-on with religion (and myself) deep in the heart of Dixie

Growing up Jewish in New York City, I had no idea that I was a member of a ridiculously small religious minority. That blithe unawareness had something to do with the relatively large number of Jews living there, obviously, but it was also connected to the secular tenor of public life in America’s most international city: religion was considered a private matter; it never came up among strangers or casual acquaintances, and certainly never in a business situation. There was a strong awareness that the other guy might well turn out to be Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or Jain, and that it was safer not to risk giving (or receiving) offense.
In 2002 I moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, and everything changed.…

April 6th, 2006
A Danish reader offers some perspective

I was randomly surfing the web when I found your article on the Mohammed cartoons and, though it did offer insight into the Muslim thinking, I have to admit that I found the point to be without insight into what has actually caused the situation in the first place.
I should probably tell you a little bit about myself. I am a Dane. I am a Christian, and I did not enjoy those cartoons. However, anyone from the Danish culture, would interpret them differently than you did. Which is why I thought you might find the background story interesting.
Backstory
You probably already know, that what started the whole ordeal was a man who wanted to make an informative book about Islam for children. Harmless? No, because he wanted cartoons…

March 22nd, 2006
Surviving my husband's heart attack

At 11pm on February 9th my husband started with pain in his chest. At midnight he woke me up and said, “I don’t think I’m ok.” We drove to the emergency room. The guy at the desk took one look at Greg’s pale sweaty face and said, “Come right back to Room 1.” After that, things went the way they go when you’re a kid and you realize the sledding hill is too steep but you’ve already pushed off. Everything starts whizzing by in a blur and you’re thinking to yourself, “If I can (Unh!) just hang onto the (Ow!) sled, I might live through this.” I’m 38 years old, and the thought of becoming a widow just now is definitely NOT part of the plan.
As one…

March 13th, 2006
The Best American Spiritual Writing 2005

A quick glance at the “inspiration” section in any large bookstore is all one needs to determine that books classified as spiritual writing occupy a large tent. Joseph Cardinal Bernardin’s The Gift of Peace nestles next to Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez, while Kabbalah for Beginners and books of Sufi poetry fill the shelves immediately below. The poems, confessional essays, journalistic analyses and riffs that fill the pages of Best American Spiritual Writing are of the decidedly literary variety, having been gleaned from mainstream periodicals like The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly and The New York Times magazine, as well as more specialized journals and literary magazines…

February 21st, 2006

Robert Ellsberg had some explaining to do.
When his book All Saints appeared in 1997, readers celebrated its fresh take on the lives of “365 saints, prophets and witnesses for our time.” But many wanted to know: “Where are all the women?” It was a fair question, given the book’s lopsided male-to-female ratio of four-to-one.
With Blessed Among All Women, Ellsberg returns to address the question head on. In the introduction, he acknowledges the imbalance of All Saints, but is quick to portray it as a symptom of a larger problem. “Among the wide company of official saints,” Ellsberg laments, “women are vastly underrepresented.” Blessed Among All Women…

January 25th, 2006
A Portland parish becomes devoted to the environment

On the long list of social justice causes that the Catholic Church advocates for, issues like poverty and the right to life are usually foremost in people’s minds. But, with the help of their pastor, a parish in the Pacific Northwest has rallied around their concern for the environment with a fervor that has not only enabled them to have a significant, tangible impact on their surrounding community but also illuminated a neglected area of Catholic Social thought that continues to grow in relevance.
When Paulist Father Steve Bossi was assigned to St. Phillip Neri parish in Portland, Oregon, he was excited to return to the Pacific Northwest where he grew up, but he knew he was going to face a huge challenge in…

January 24th, 2006
Wisdom, courage and a good family life, the Old Testament's Deborah "had it all"

Ok, I admit it…in the Bible the men pulled off some pretty incredible feats: Moses parted the sea; Elijah called down fire from heaven to incinerate the wicked priests of Baal; Peter miraculously healed a cripple. Not unlike Hollywood, in the pages of sacred scripture it often seems as though all the juiciest, action-hero roles are reserved for men. And while they fill us with inspiration and admiration, I sometimes wonder where all the women are. Where are my spiritual sisters?
Jezebel!
Often, we are led to believe that all women of leadership and personal strength are Jezebels–evil to the core and deserving of their horrible fate (lest we forget, the original Jezebel of the Bible was thrown from…

January 19th, 2006
John Paul II gave us a moment that we need to remember

When Pope John Paul II’s would-be assasin, Mehmet Ali Agca, was released from a Turkish jail last week after serving almost 25 years behind bars — except for the complete transformation of his hair from jet black to grey—the man who emerged looked strikingly similar to the person who inhabits one of the more enduring images that I hold dear of the late pope. In that scene John Paul is huddled in a corner talking quietly at close range with the man who tried to kill him. It was an extraordinary act of forgiveness that continues to be extremely rare—if not unheard of — on the world stage and one I don’t remember nearly enough in my own life.

After Agca shot John Paul II six times at close range while thousands of pilgrims looked on in St. Peter’s Square, people around the world were shocked. “Who would want to kill a Pope?” was the question on many people’s lips. “He should get the chair,” my mother remarked angrily. And we all agreed.

Breaking the endless cycle

It was an understandable reaction. Think about it, how often do any of us forgive or ask forgiveness for the many comparatively small transgressions in our own lives? How often in our history books, filled with accounts of hatred and violence, do we come across unpredictable acts like this that break the endless cycle of vengeance? Months after his recovery, the Pope’s visit to his attacker in prison was a radical step in a different direction. He looked at his would-be killer in the eye, conversed with him, shook his hand, and even prayed for him!

January 12th, 2006
Critic Harold Bloom wrestles with God in Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine

Who is Jesus? Who is God? Is it possible to discuss them apart from theological abstractions, as personalities with distinctly individual ways of seeing the world? And if so, do these personalities matter to us now in contemporary America? These are the questions that Harold Bloom addresses in his provocative new book, Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine.
Bloom comes to this task with an extraordinary pedigree. A professor at Yale, he is one of the most influential literary critics of the last forty years, the author of more than twenty books and the winner of numerous prizes, including a MacArthur “genius” award. In recent years, he has taken to writing for a general audience: The Western Canon, a…

January 10th, 2006
A Letter From the Editor

“Make no mistake” a priest friend of mine said to me during a recent phone call “it’s a disaster.” I had called to wish him a happy new year but our conversation had veered toward a difficult subject. He was reacting to the Vatican’s document on the suitability of homosexual men for the priesthood that was released in late 2005. My friend, who also happens to be gay, was commenting in part on the more open-ended interpretations of the document that some church officials have offered publicly. But he was also responding to what seems to be a collective shrug of indifference on the issue from many priests—gay and straight—in the United States who seem to think that,…

December 25th, 2005

“And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold,…

December 24th, 2005
Reflections on St. Joseph from a soon-to-be adoptive father

As Christmas Day draws closer and crèche scenes start to pop up in New York City, I inevitably begin to think about the Holy Family. But this Christmas, as my wife and I begin the process of adopting a child, I find myself drawn closer to the life of St. Joseph than ever before.
Imagine Joseph’s surprise when, in his old age, he accepts Mary as his betrothed only to find out later that she is pregnant. By law, Joseph had the right to stone Mary. So the first intended audience for the gospel must have found it quite surprising that Joseph decided to simply “divorce her quietly.”
A second surprise is that this choice causes Joseph so much angst that he can not even sleep soundly. A dream instructs…

December 20th, 2005
Some thoughts on Christmas presence

HAVERTOWN, PA
December 1958
It’s helpful to have an older brother who’s taller than you. At the age of four Timmy is a year older and can reach things I can’t. One morning, he climbs up on a chair he’s put in the closet we’re not supposed to open, and sees toys on the shelf, new toys, still in their packages. Fun! He yanks down a set of blocks and a bunch of other stuff. Soon I’m busy playing with a new set of beautiful, blond, wooden blocks, putting them one on top of another, and then immediately knocking them down. Fun! All of a sudden, our Mom, seeing that we’ve discovered the Christmas stash early, pulls us into the kitchen. “Time for breakfast, boys. I’m making chocolate chip pancakes.” I love chocolate…

November 15th, 2005
In Syracuse they gather every Wednesday to eat, drink and talk about God

To Blair Frodelius, it makes perfect sense to talk about God in a bar. After all, he says, Jesus turned water into wine. “There is something about sharing food and drink with others around a table that allows the conversation to flow freely,” says Frodelius, worship pastor at Sojourn, a Methodist ministry in Syracuse, NY.
Frodelius leads a Wednesday night discussion group at the Blue Tusk Pub in Syracuse’s trendy downtown district Armory Square called “Jesus in the Postmodern Matrix,” a group aimed at providing a non-threatening venue for people of all denominations to come and discuss their journey with God. They’ve met every Wednesday since the first week in May of…

November 9th, 2005
Can Intelligent Design and Evolution Ever Get Along?

This past summer, I moved to a college campus on the North Shore of Chicago. Thankfully, my dorm days are over, but via marriage to a professor, I have taken semi-root in the soil of a faculty-housing complex –a collection of ten somewhat-dilapidated, PhD-inhabited brick homes around a common-area playground that, with its crumbling dump-trucks, cracked hula-hoops and rusted swings, could double as a toy cemetery. Yet despite (or perhaps partly due to) the aesthetic lapses of this curiously anti-suburban cul-de-sac, the arrangement has lent itself to being a hothouse for philosophical discussion.
One late Friday afternoon at the cemetery’s so-called happy hour, with our toddlers obliviously…

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